THE UNIVERSITY OF
THE WILMER COLLECTION
OF CIVIL WAR NOVELS
RICHARD H. WILMER, JR.
TIME AND PLACE
HARPER & BROTHERS, FRANKLIN SQUARE
Copyright, 1892, by Harper & Brothers.
All rights reserved.
MR. GEORGE C. PREOT
OF NEW ORLEANS
MY CRITICAL FRIEND AND
Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive
in 2010 witii funding from
University of Nortii Carolina at Chapel Hill
BAYOU L'OMBRE 3
BONNE MAMAN 63
MADRILENE; OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD 119
THE CHRISTMAS STORY OF A LITTLE CHURCH 183
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR.
[F course they knew all about war
— soldiers, flags, music, generals
on horseback brandishing swords,
knights in armor escalading walls,
cannons booming through clouds of
smoke. They were familiarized with it picto-
rially and by narrative long before the alpha-
bet made its appearance in the nursery with
rudimentary accounts of the world they were
born into, the simple juvenile world of primary
sensations and colors. Their great men, and
great women, too, were all fighters ; the great
events of their histories, battles ; the great places
of their geography, where they v/ere fought (and
generally the more bloody the battle, the more
glorious the place) ; while their little chronol-
ogy — the pink-covered one— stepped briskly over
the centuries solely on the names of kings and
sanguinary saliencies. Sunday added the sab-
batical supplement to week - day lessons, sym-
bolizing religion, concreting sin, incorporating
4 BAYOU L OMBRE.
evil, for their better comprehension, putting Jeho-
vah himself in armor, to please their childish fac-
ulties — the omnipotent Intervener of the Old
Testament, for whom they waved banners, sang
hymns, and by the brevet title, " little soldiers of
the cross," felt committed as by baptism to an
attitude of expectant hostility. Mademoiselle
Couper, their governess, eased the cross-stitching
in their samplers during the evenings, after sup-
per, with traditions of " le grand Napoleon," in
whose army her grandfather was a terrible and
distinguished officer, le Capitaine Cesaire Paul
Picquet de Montignac ; and although Mademoi-
selle Couper was most unlovable and exacting at
times, and very homely, such were their powers of
sympathetic enthusiasm even then that they often
went to bed envious of the possessor or so glo-
rious an ancestor, and dreamed fairy tales of him
whose gray hair, enshrined in a brooch, reposed
comfortably under the folds of mademoiselle's fat
chin — the hair that Napoleon had looked upon !
When a war broke out in their own country
they could hardly credit their good-fortune ; that
is, Christine and Rdgina, for Lolotte was still a
baby. A wonderful panorama was suddenly un-
folded before them. It was their first intimation
of the identity of the world they lived in with the
world they learned about, their first perception of
the existence of an entirely novel sentiment in
their hearts— patriotism, the amour sacri de la pa-
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 5
trie, over which they had seen mademoiselle shed
tears as copiously as her grandfather had blood.
It made them and all their little companions feel
very proud, this war ; but it gave them a heavy
sense of responsibility, turning their youtliful pre-
cocity incontinently away from books, slates, and
pianos towards the martial considerations that
befitted the hour. State rights, Federal limits,
monitors and fortresses, proclamations, Presi-
dents, recognitions, and declarations, they ac-
quired them all with facility, taxing, as in other
lessons, their tongue to repeat the unintelligible
on trust for future intelligence. As their father
fired his huge after-dinner bombs, so they shot
their diminutive ammunition ; as he lighted
brands in the great conflagration, they lighted
tapers ; and the two contending Presidents them-
selves did not get on their knees with more fer-
vor before their colossal sphinxes than these lit-
tle girls did before their doll-baby presentment
of " Country." It was very hard to realize at
times that histories and story-books and poetry
would indeed be written about them ; that little
flags would mark battles all over the map of their
country — the country Mademoiselle Couper de-
spised as so hopelessly, warlessly insignificant ;
that men would do great things and women say
them, teachers and copy-books reiterate them,
and children learn them, just as they did of the
Greeks and Romans, the English and French,
6 BAYOU L OMBRE.
The great advantage was having God on their
side, as the children of Israel had ; the next best
thing was having the finest country, the most
noble men, and the bravest soldiers. The only-
fear -was that the enemy would be beaten too
easily, and the war cease too soon to be glorious ;
for, characteristic of their sex, they demanded
nothing less than that their war should be the
longest, bloodiest, and most glorious of all wars
ever heard of, in comparison with which even
" le grand Napoleon " and his Capitaine Picquet
would be effaced from memory. For this were
exercised their first attempts at extempore prayer.
God, the dispenser of inexhaustible supplies of
munitions of war, became quite a different pow-
er, a nearer and dearer personality, than " Our
Father," the giver of simple daily bread, and He
did not lack reminding of the existence of the
young Confederacy, nor of the hearsay exigencies
they gathered from the dinner-table talk.
Titine was about thirteen, Gina twelve, and Lo-
lotte barely eight years old, when this, to them,
happy break in their lives occurred. It was eas-
ily comprehensible to them that their city should
be captured, and that to escape that grim ultima-
tum of Mademoiselle Couper, '■'■ passees au fil de
repee," they should be bundled up very hurriedly
one night, carried out of their home, and journey
in troublesome roundabout ways to the planta-
tion on Bayou I'Ombre.
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 7
That was all four years ago. School and play
and city life, dolls and fetes and Santa Claus, had
become the property of memory. Peace for them
hovered in that obscurity which had once envel-
oped war, while '"61," '"62," '"63," "'64,"filledim-
measurable spaces in their short past. Four times
had Christine and Regina changed the date in
their diaries — the last token of remembrance from
Mademoiselle Couper — altering the numerals
with naive solemnity, as if under the direction of
the Almighty himself, closing with conventional
ceremony the record of the lived -out twelve
months, opening with appropriate aspirations the
year to come. The laboriously careful chronicle
that followed was not, however, of the growth of
their bodies advancing by inches, nor the expan-
sion of their minds, nor of the vague forms that
began to people the shadow-land of their sixteen
and seventeen year old hearts. Their own bud-
ding and leafing and growing was as unnoted as
that of the trees and weeds about them. The
progress of the war, the growth of their hatred
of the enemy, the expansion of the amour sacre
germ — these were the confidences that filled the
neatly -stitched foolscap volumes. If on com-
parison one sister was found to have been hap-
pier in the rendition of the common sentiment,
the coveted fervor and eloquence were plagia-
rized or imitated the next day by the other, a gen-
erous emulation thus keeping the original flame
8 BAVOU L OMBRE.
not only alight, but burning, while from assimilat-
ing each other's sentiments the two girls grew
with identity of purpose into identity of mind, and
effaced the slight difference of age between them.
Little Lolotte responded as well as she could
to the enthusiastic exactions of her sisters. She
gave her rag dolls patriotic names, obediently
hated and loved as they required, and learned to
recite all the war songs procurable, even to the
teeming quantities of the stirring " Men of the
South, our foes are up !" But as long as the
squirrels gambolled on the fences, the blackbirds
flocked in the fields, and the ditches filled with
fish ; as long as the seasons imported such con-
stant variety of attractions — persimmons, dew-
berries, blackberries, acorns, wild plums, grapes,
and muscadines ; as long as the cows had calves,
the dogs puppies, the hogs pigs, and the quarters
new babies to be named ; as long as the exas-
perating negro children needed daily subjuga-
tion, regulation, and discipline — the day's meas-
ure was too well filled and the night's slumber
too short to admit of her carrying on a very vig-
orous warfare for a country so far away from
Bayou I'Ombre — a country whose grievances she
could not understand.
But— there were no soldiers, flags, music, pa-
rades, battles, or sieges. This war was altogether
distinct from the wars contained in books or in
Mademoiselle Couper's memory. There was an
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. g
absence of the simplest requirements of war.
They kept awaiting the familiar events for which
they had been prepared ; but after four years the
only shots fired on Bayou I'Ombre were at game
in the forest, the only blood shed was from the
tottering herds of Texas beeves driven across the
swamps to them, barely escaping by timely butch-
ery the starvation they came to relieve, and the
only heroism they had been called upon to dis-
play was still going to bed in the dark. Indeed,
were it not that they knew there was a war they
might have supposed that some malignant fairy
had transported them from a state of wealth and
luxury to the condition of those miserable Ha-
thorns, the pariahs of their childhood, who lived
just around the corner from them in the city,
with whom they had never been allowed to asso-
ciate. If they had not so industriously fostered the
proper feelings in their hearts, they might almost
have forgotten it, or, like Lolotte, been diverted
from it by the generous overtures of nature all
around them. But they kept on reminding each
other that it was not the degrading want of money,
as in the Hathorns' case, that forced them to live
on salt meat, corn -bread, and sassafras tea, to
dress like the negro women in the quarters, that
deprived them of education and society, and im-
prisoned them in a swamp-encircled plantation,
the prey of chills and fever ; but it was for love
of country, and being little women now, they loved
lO BAYOU L OMBRE.
their country more, the more they suffered for her.
Disillusion might have supervened to disappoint-
ment and bitterness have quenched hope, experi-
ence might at last have sharpened their vision, but
for the imagination, that ethereal parasite which
fattens on the stagnant forces of youth and gar-
nishes with tropical luxuriance the abnormal source
of its nourishment. Soaring aloft, above the pro-
saic actualities of the present, beyond the rebut-
ting evidence of earth, was a fanciful stage where
the drama of war such as they craved was un-
folded ; where neither homespun, starvation, over-
flows, nor illness were allowed to enter; where
the heroes and heroines they loved acted roles in
all the conventional glitter of costume and con-
duct, amid the dazzling pomps and circumstances
immortalized in history and romance. Their
hearts would bound and leap after these phan-
tasms, like babes in nurses' arms after the moon,
and would almost burst with longing, their ripe
little hearts, Pandora-boxes packed with passions
and pleasures for a lifetime, ready to spring open
at a touch ! On moonlit nights in summer, or
under the low gray clouds of winter days, in the
monotony of nothingness about them, the yearn-
ing in their breasts was like that of hunting dogs
howling for the unseen game. Sometimes a ru-
mor of a battle "out in the Confederacy" would
find its way across the swamps to them, and
months afterwards a newspaper would be thrown
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. ii
to them from a passing skiff, some old, useless,
tattered, disreputable, journalistic tramp, garru-
lous with mendacities ; but it was all true to
them, if to no one else in the world — the fac-
titious triumphs, the lurid glories, the pyrotech-
nicai promises, prophecies, calculations, and Vic-
tory with the laurel wreath always in the future,
never out of sight for an instant. They would
con the fraudulent evangel, entranced ; their
eyes would sparkle, the blood color their cheeks,
their voices vibrate, and a strange strength ex-
cite and nerve their bodies. Then would follow
wakeful nights and restless days ; Black Marga-
rets, Jeanne d'Arcs, Maids of Saragossa, Kath-
erine Douglases, Charlotte Cordays, would haunt
them like the goblins of a delirium ; then their
prayers would become imperious demands upon
Heaven, their diaries would almost break into
spontaneous combustion from the incendiary ma-
terial enmagazined in their pages, and the South
would have conquered the world then and there
could their hands but have pointed the guns and
their hearts have recruited the armies. They
would with mingled pride and envy read all the
names, barely decipherable in the travel-stained
record, from the President and Generals in big
print to the diminishing insignificance of small-
est-type privates; and they would shed tears,
when the reaction would come a few days later,
at the thought that in the whole area of typog-
12 BAYOU L OMBRE.
raphy, from the officers gaining immortality to
the privates losing lives, there was not one name
belonging to them ; and they would ask why, of
all the families in the South, precisely their father
and mother should have no relations, why, of all
the women in the South, they should be brotherless.
There was Beau, a too notorious guerilla cap-
tain ; but what glory was to be won by raiding
towns, wrecking trains, plundering transports,
capturing couriers, disobeying orders, defying
regulations ? He was almost as obnoxious to his
own as to the enemy's flag.
Besides, Beau at most was only a kind of a
cousin, the son of a deceased step-sister of their
father's ; the most they could expect from him was
to keep his undisciplined crew of " 'Cadians," Ind-
ians, and swampers away from Bayou I'Ombre.
" Ah, if we were only men !" But no ! They
who could grip daggers and shed blood, they who
teemed with all the possibilities of romance or
poetry, they were selected for a passive, paltry
contest against their own necessities ; the endur-
ance that would have laughed a siege to scorn
ebbing away in a never-ceasing wrangle with
fever and ague — willow-bark tea at odds with a
malarious swamp !
' It was now early summer ; the foliage of spring
was lusty and strong, fast outgrowing tender-
ness and delicacy of shade, with hints of matu-
rity already swelling the shape. The day was
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 13
cloudless and warm, the dinner -hour was long
past, and supper still far off. There were no
appetizing varieties of menu to make meals ob-
jects of pleasant anticipation ; on the contrary,
they had become mournful effigies of a convivial
institution of which they served at most only to
recall the hours, monotonously measuring otf the
recurring days which passed like unlettered mile-
posts in a desert, with no information to give ex-
cept that of transition. To-day the meal-times
were so far apart as to make one believe that the
sun had given up all forward motion, and intended
prolonging the present into eternity. The planta-
tion was quiet and still ; not the dewy hush of early
dawn trembling before the rising sun, nor the mys-
terious muteness of midnight, nor yet the lethar-
gic dulness of summer when the vertical sun-rays
pin sense and motion to the earth. It was the
motionless, voiceless state of unnatural quietude,
the oppressive consciousness of abstracted ac-
tivity, which characterized those days when the
whole force of Bayou I'Ombre went off into the
swamps to- cut timber. Days that began shortly
after one midnight and lasted to the other ; rare
days, when neither horn nor bell was heard for
summons ; when not a skiff, flat-boat, nor pirogue
was left at the " gunnels ;"* when old Uncle John
alone remained to represent both master and
* "Gunnels," floating wharf.
14 BAYOU L OMBRE.
men in the cares and resiDonsibilities devolving
upon his sex. The bayou hved and moved as
usual, carrying its deceptive depths of brackish
water unceasingly onward through the shadow
and sunshine, rippling over the opposite low, soft
banks, which seemed slowly sinking out of sight
under the weight of the huge cypress-trees grow-
ing upon it. The long stretch of unfilled fields
back of the house, feebly kept in symmetrical
proportion by crumbling fences, bared their rigid,
seedless furrows in despairing barrenness to the
sun, except in corner spots where a rank growth
of weeds had inaugurated a reclamation in favor
of barbarism. The sugar-house, superannuated
and decrepit from unwholesome idleness, tottered
against its own massive, smokeless chimney ; the
surrounding sheds, stables, and smithy looked for-
saken and neglected ; the old blind mule peace-
fully slept in the shade of his once flagellated
course under the corn-mill. Afar off against the
woods the huge wheel of the draining-machine
rose from the underbrush in the big ditch. The
patient buzzards, roosting on the branches of the
gaunt, blasted gum-tree by the bayou, would raise
their heads from time to time to question the loi-
tering sun, or, slowly flapping their heavy wings,
circle up into the blue sky, to fall again in lazy
spirals to their watch-tower, or they would take
short flights by twos and threes over the moribund
plantation to see if dissolution had not yet set
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 15
in, and then all would settle themselves agam to
brood and sleep and dream, and wait in tranquil
certainty the striking of their banqueting" hour.
The three girls were in the open hall-way of
the plantation house, Christine reading, Regina
knitting, both listlessly occupied. Like every-
thing else, they were passively quiet, and, like
everything else, their appearance advertised an
unwholesome lack of vitality, an insidious ana-
morphosis from an unexplained dearth or con-
straint. Their meagre maturity and scant devel-
opment clashed abnormally with the surrounding
prodigality of insensible nature. Though tall,
they were thin ; they were fair, but sallow ; their
gentle deep eyes were reproachful and deprived-
looking. If their secluded hearts ventured even
in thought towards the plumings natural to their
age, their coarse, homely, ill-fitting garments
anathematized any coquettish effort or naive ex-
pression of a desire to find favor. Like the
fields, they seemed hesitating on the backward
path from cultivation. Lolotte stood before the
cherry-wood armoire* that held the hunting and
fishing tackle, the wholesome receptacle of useful
odds and ends. Not old enough to have come
into the war with preconceptions, Lolotte had no
reconciliations or compromises to effect between
the ideal and the real, no compensations to solicit
from an obliging imagination, which so far never
rose beyond the possibilities of perch, blackbirds,
r6 BAYOU l'ombre.
and turtle eggs. The first of these occupied her
thoughts at the present moment. She had made
a tryst with the negro children at the draining-
machine this afternoon. If she could, unper-
ceived, abstract enough tackle from the armoire for
the crowd, and if they could slip away from the
quarters, and she evade the surveillance of Uncle
John, there would be a diminished number of
"brim" and "goggle-eye" in the ditch out yon-
der, and such a notable addition to the planta-
tion supper to-night as would crown the exploit a
success, and establish for herself a reputation
above all annoying recollections of recent mis-
haps and failures. As she tied the hooks on to
the lines she saw herself surrounded by the ac-
claiming infantile populace, pulling the struggling
perch up one after the other ; she saw them
strung on palmetto thongs, long strings of them ;
she walked home at the head of her procession ;
heard Peggy's exclamations of surprise, smelt
them frying, and finally was sitting at the table, a
plate of bones before her, the radiant hostess of
an imperial feast.
" Listen !" Like wood-ducks from under the
water, the three heads rose simultaneously above
their abstractions. "Rowlock! Rowlock!" The
eyes might become dull, the tongue inert, and the
heart languid on Bayou I'Ombre, but the ears
were ever assiduous, ever on duty. Quivering
and nervous, they listened even through sleep for
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 17
that one blessed echo of travel, the signal from
another and a distant world. Faint, shadowy,
delusive, the whispering forerunner of on-coming
news, it overrode the rippling of the current, the
hooting of the owls, the barking of dogs, the splash
of the gar-fish, the grunting of the alligator, the
croaking of frogs, penetrating all turmoil, silenc-
ing all other sounds. "Rowlock! Rowlock!"
Slow, deliberate, hard, and strenuous, coming up-
stream ; easy, soft, and musical, gliding down.
" Rowlock ! Rowlock !" Every stroke a very
universe of hope, every oar frothing a sea of ex-
pectation ! Was it the bayou or the secret stream
of their longing that suggested the sound to-
day? "Rowlock! Rowlock!" The smouldering
glances brightened in their eyes, they hollowed
their hands behind their ears and held their breath
for greater surety. " Rowlock ! Rowlock !" In
clear, distinct reiteration. It resolved the mo-
ment of doubt.
" Can it be papa coming back ?"
" No ; it's against stream."
"It must be swampers."
" Or hunters, perhaps."
"Or Indians from the mound."
" Indians in a skiff ?"
" Well, they sometimes come in a skiff."
The contingencies were soon exhausted, a cut-
off leading travellers far around Bayou I'Ombre,
whose snaggy, rafted, convoluted course was by
I8 BAYOU l'oMBRE.
universal avoidance relegated to an isolation al-
most insulting. The girls, listening, not to lose a
single vibration, quit their places and advanced to
the edge of the gallery, then out under the trees,
then to the levee, then to the "gunnels," where they
stretched their long, thin, white necks out of their
blue and brown check gowns, and shaded their
eyes and gazed down-stream for the first glimpse of
the skiff — their patience which had lasted months
fretting now over the delay of a few moments.
"At last we shall get some news again."
" If they only leave a newspaper !"
" Or a letter," said Lolotte.
" A letter ! From whom ?"
" Ah, that's it !"
"What a pity papa isn't here !"
" Lolotte, don't shake the gunnels so ; you are
wetting our feet."
" How long is it since the last one passed ?"
" I can tell you," said Lolotte — " I can tell you
exactly : it was the day Lou Ann fell in the bayou
and nearly got drowned.''
"You mean when you both fell in."
" I didn't fall in at all ; I held on to the pirogue."
The weeping-willow on the point below veiled
the view ; stretching straight out from the bank, it
dropped its shock of long, green, pliant branches
into the water, titillating and dimpling the surface.
The rising bayou bore a freight of logs and drift
from the swamps above ; rudely pushing their way
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR.
through the willow boughs, they tore and bruised
the fragile tendrils that clung to the rough bark,
scattering the tiny leaves which followed hope-
lessly after in their wake or danced up and down
in the hollow eddies behind them. Each time the
willow screen moved, the gunnels swayed under the
forward motion of the eager bodies of the girls.
They turned their eyes to the shaft of sunlight
that fell through the plantation clearing, bridging
the stream. The skiff touched, entered, and passed
through it with a marvellous revelation of form and
color, the oars silvering and dripping diamonds,
arrows and lances of light scintillating from pol-
ished steel, golden stars rising like dust from tas-
sels, cordons, buttons, and epaulets, while the blue
clouds themselves seemed to have fallen from their
empyrean heights to uniform the rowers with their
own celestial hue — blue, not gray !
" Rowlock ! Rowlock !" What loud, frightful,
threatening reverberations of the oars ! And the
bayou flowed on the same, and the cypress-trees
gazed stolidly and steadfastly up to the heavens,
and the heavens were serenely blue and white !
But the earth was sympathetic, the ground shook
and swayed under their feet ; or was it the rush of
thoughts that made their heads so giddy ? They
tried to arrest one and hold it for guidance, but
on they sped, leaving only wild confusion of con-
20 BAYOU L OMBRE.
" Rowlock ! Rowlock !" The rudder headed
the bow for the gunnels.
" Titine ! Gina ! Will they kill us all ?" whis-
pered Lolotte, with anxious horror.
The agile Lou Ann, Lolotte's most efficient co-
adjutor and Uncle John's most successful torment-
or, dropped her bundle of fishing-poles (which
he had carefully spread on his roof to "cure "), and
while they rolled and rattled over the dry shin-
gles she scrambled with inconceivable haste to
her corner of descent. Holding to the eaves
while her excited black feet searched and found
the top of the window that served as a step, she
dropped into the ash-hopper below. Without paus-
ing, as usual, to efface betraying evidences of her
enterprise from her person, or to cover her tracks
in the wet ashes, she jumped to the ground, and
ignoring all secreting offers of bush, fence, or
ditch, contrary to her custom, she ran with all the
speed of her thin legs down the shortest road to
the quarters. They were, as she knew, deserted.
The doors of the cabins were all shut, with logs
of wood or chairs propped against them. The
chickens and dogs were making free of the gal-
leries, and the hogs wallowed in peaceful immu-
nity underneath. A waking baby from a lonely
imprisoned cradle sent cries for relief through an
open window. Lou Ann, looking neither to the
right nor the left, slackened not her steps, but
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 21
passed straight on through the little avenue to
the great white-oak which stood just outside the
levee on the bank of the bayou.
Under the wide-spreading, moss-hung branches,
upon the broad flat slope, a grand general washing
of the clothes of the small community was in busy
progress by the women, a proper feminine conse-
cration of this purely feminine day. The daily
irksome routine was broken, the men were all
away, the sun was bright and warm, the air soft
and sweet. The vague recesses of the opposite
forest were dim and silent, the bayou played under
the gunnels in caressing modulations. All fur-
thered the hearkening and the yielding to a debo-
nair mood, with disregard of concealment, license
of pose, freedom of limb, hilarity, conviviality, au-
dacities of heart and tongue, joyous indulgence in
freak and impulse, banishment of thought, a re-
turn, indeed, for one brief moment to the wild,
sweet ways of nature, to the festal days of ances-
tral golden age (a short retrogression for them),
when the body still had claims, and the mind con-
cessions, and the heart owed no allegiance, and
when god and satyr eyes still might be caught
peeping and glistening from leafy covert on femi-
nine midsummer gambols. Their skirts were girt
high around their broad full hips, their dark arms
and necks came naked out of their low, sleeve-
less, white chemise bodies, and glistened with
perspiration in the sun as if frosted with silver.
22 BAYOU L OMBRE.
Little clouds of steam rose from the kettles stand-
ing around them over heaps of burning chips.
The splay - legged battling - boards sank firmer
and firmer into the earth under the blows of the
bats, pounding and thumping the wet clothes,
squirting the warm suds in all directions, up into
the laughing faces, down into the panting bosoms,
against the shortened, clinging skirts, over the
bare legs, out in frothy runnels over the soft red
clay corrugated with innumerable toe-prints. Out
upon the gunnels the water swished and foamed
under the vigorous movements of the rinsers, end-
lessly bending and raising their flexible, muscular
bodies, burying their arms to the shoulders in the
cool, green depths, piling higher and higher the
heaps of tightly-wrung clothes at their sides. The
water-carriers, passing up and down the narrow,
slippery plank- way, held the evenly filled pails
with the ease of coronets upon their heads. The
children, under compulsion of continuous threats
and occasional chastisement, fed the fire with
chips from distant wood-piles, squabbling for the
possession of the one cane-knife to split kindlers,
imitating the noise and echoing with absurd fidel-
ity the full-throated laughter that interrupted from
time to time the work around the wash-kettles.
High above the slop and tumult sat old Aunt
Mary, the official sick-nurse of the plantation, com-
monly credited with conjuring powers. She held a
corn-cob pipe between her yellow protruding teeth,
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 23
and her little restless eyes travelled inquisitively
from person to person as if in quest of profes-
sional information, twinkling with amusement at
notable efforts of wit, and with malice at the
general discomfiture expressed under their gaze.
Heelen sat near, nursing her baby. She had
taken off her kerchief, and leaned her uncovered
head back against the trunk of the tree ; the long
wisps of wool, tightly wrapped in white knitting-
cotton, rose from irregular sections all over her
elongated narrow skull, and encircled her wrinkled,
nervous, toothless face like some ghastly serpen-
" De Yankees ! de Yankees ! I seed 'em — at
de big house ! Little mistus she come for Uncle
John. He fotched his gun — for to shoot 'em,"
Lou Ann struggled to make her exhausted
breath carry all her tidings. After each item
she closed her mouth and swallowed violently,
working her muscles until her little horns of
hair rose and moved with the contortions of her
"An' dey locked a passel o' men up in de
The bats paused in the air, the women on the
gunnels lifted their arms out of the water, those
on the gang-plank stopped where they were ; only
the kettles simmered on audibly.
Lou Ann recommenced, this time finishing in
one breath, with the added emphasis of raising her
24 BAYOU LOMBRE.
arm and pointing in the direction from whence
she came, her voice getting shriller and shriller
to the end :
" I seed 'em. Dey was Yankees. Little mis-
tus she come for Uncle John ; he fotched his gun
for to shoot 'em ; and they locked a passel o'
men up in de smoke-house — Cornfedrits."
The Yankees ! What did it mean to them ?
How much from the world outside had pene-
trated into the unlettered fastnesses of their igno-
rance ? What did the war mean to them ? Had
Bayou I'Ombre indeed isolated both mind ^nd
body ? Had the subtle time-spirit itself been di-
verted from them by the cut-off ? Could their
rude minds draw no inferences from the gradual
loosening of authority and relaxing of discipline ?
Did they neither guess nor divine their share in
the shock of battle out there ? Could their ghost-
seeing eyes not discern the martyr-spirits rising
from two opposing armies, pointing at, beckon-
ing to them ? If, indeed, the water-shed of their
destiny was forming without their knowledge as
without their assistance, could not maternal in-
stinct spell it out of the heart-throbs pulsing into
life under their bosoms, or read from the dumb
faces of the children at their breast the triumph-
ant secret of their superiority over others born and
nourished before them ?
Had they, indeed, no gratifications beyond the
physical, no yearnings, no secret burden of a
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 25
secret prayer to God, these bonded wives and
mothers ? Was this careless, happy, indolent ex-
istence genuine, or only a fool's motley to dis-
guise a tragedy of suffering ? What to them was
the difference between themselves and their mis-
tresses ? their condition ? or their skin, that opaque
black skin which hid so well the secrets of life,
which could feel but not own the blush of shame,
the pallor of weakness.
If their husbands had brought only rum from
their stealthy midnight excursions to distant
towns, how could the child repeat it so glibly —
"Yankees — Cornfedrits ?" The women stood still
and silent, but their eyes began to creep around
furtively, as if seeking degrees of complicity in a
common guilt, each waiting for the other to con-
fess comprehension, to assume the responsibility
The clear-headed children, profiting by the dis-
traction of attention from them, stole away for
their fishing engagement, leaving cane -knife and
chips scattered on the ground behind them. The
murmuring of the bayou seemed to rise louder
and louder ; the cries of the forsaken baby, clam-
orous and hoarse, fell distinctly on the air.
" My Gord A'mighty !"
The exclamation was uncompromising ; it re-
lieved the tension and encouraged rejoinder.
" My Lord !— humph !"
One bat slowly and deliberately began to beat
26 BAYOU l'OMBRE.
again — Black Maria's. Her tall, straight back
was to them, but, as if they saw it, they knew that
her face was settling into that cold, stern rigidity
of hers, the keen eyes beginning to glisten, the
long, thin nostrils nervously to twitch, the lips to
open over her fine white teeth — the expression
they hated and feared.
"0-h! o-h! o-h!"
A long, thin, tremulous vibration, a weird, haunt-
ing note : what inspiration suggested it ?
" Glo-o-ry !"
Old Aunt Mary nodded her knowing head af-
firmatively, as if at the fulfilment of a silent proph-
ecy. She quietly shook the ashes out of her pipe,
hunted her pocket, put it in, and rising stiffly from
the root, hobbled away on her stick in the direc-
tion of her cabin.
" Glo-o-ry !"
Dead-arm Harriet stood before them, with her
back to the bayou, her right arm hanging heavy
at her side, her left extended, the finger pointing
to the sky. A shapely arm and tapering finger ;
a comely, sleek, half -nude body; the moist lips,
with burning red linings, barely parting to emit
the sound they must have culled in uncanny prac-
tices. The heavy lids drooped over the large
sleepy eyes, looking with languid passion from
behind the thick black lashes.
" Glo-o-ry !" It stripped their very nerves and
bared secret places of sensation ! The " happy "
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 27
cry of revival meetings — as if midnight vi^ere com-
ing on, salvation and the mourners' bench be-
fore them, Judgment-day and fiery flames behind
them, and "Sister Harriet" raising her voice to
call them on, on, through hand - clapping, foot-
stamping, shouting, groaning, screaming, out of
their sins, out of their senses, to rave in religious
inebriation, and fall in religious catalepsy across
the floor at the preacher's feet. With a wild rush,-
the hesitating emotions of the women sought the
opportune outlet, their hungry blood bounding
and leaping for the mid- day orgy. Obediently
their bodies began the imperceptible motion right
and left, and the veins in their throats to swell and
stand out under their skins, while the short, fierce,
intense responsive exclamations fell from their
lips to relieve their own and increase the exalta-
tion of the others.
" Sweet Christ ! sweet Christ !"
" Take me, Saviour !"
" Oh, de Lamb ! de Lamb !"
"I'm a-coming! I'm a-coming !"
" Hold back, Satan ! we's a-catching on f
" De blood's a-dripping ! de blood's a-dripping !"
" Let me kiss dat cross ! let me kiss it !"
" Sweet Master !"
"Glo-o-ry! Fre-e-dom!" It was a whisper, but
it came like a crash, and transfixed them ; their
mouths stood open with the last words, their
bodies remained bent to one side or the other,
28 BAYOU L OMBRE.
the febrile light in their eyes burning as if from
their blood on fire. They could all remember the
day when Dead -arm Harriet, the worst worker
and most violent tongue of the gang, stood in the
clearing, and raising that dead right arm over her
head, cursed the overseer riding away in the dis-
tance. The wind had been blowing all day; there
was a sudden loud crack above them, and a limb
from a deadened tree broke, sailed, poised, and
fell crashing to her shoulder, and deadening her
arm forever. They looked instinctively now with
a start to the oak above them, to the sky — only
moss and leaves and blue and white clouds. And
still Harriet's voice rose, the words faster, louder,
bolder, more determined, whipping them out of
their awe, driving them on again down the incline
of their own passions.
"Glory! Freedom! Freedom! Glory!"
" I'm bound to see 'em ! Come along !"
Heelen's wild scream rang shrill and hysterical.
She jerked her breast from the sucking lips, and
dropped her baby with a thud on the ground.
They all followed her up the levee, pressing one
after the other, slipping in the wet clay, strug-
gling each one not to be left behind. Em-
meline, the wife of little Ben, the only yellow
woman on the place, was the last. Her skirt
was held in a grip of iron ; blinded, obtuse, she
pulled forward, reaching her arms out after the
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 29
" You Stay here !"
She turned and met the determined black face
of her mother-in-law.
"You let me go !" she cried, half sobbing, half
" You stay here, I tell you !" The words were
muttered through clinched teeth.
"You let me go, I tell you !"
" Glory ! Freedom !"
The others had already left the quarters, and
were on the road. They two were alone on the
bank now, except Heelen's baby, whimpering un-
der the tree ; their blazing eyes glared at each
other. The singing voices grew fainter and faint-
er. Suddenly the yellow face grew dark with the
surge of blood underneath, the brows wrinkled,
and the lips protruded in a grimace of animal
rage. Grasping her wet bat tightly with both
hands, she turned with a furious bound, and raised
it with all the force of her short muscular arms.
The black woman darted to the ground ; the cane-
knife flashed in the air and came down pitilessly
towards the soft fleshy shoulder. A wild, terri-
fied scream burst from Emmeline's lips ; the bat
dropped ; seizing her skirt with both hands, she
pulled forward, straining her back out of reach of
the knife; the homespun tore, and she fled up the
bank, her yellow limbs gleaming through the rent
left by the fragment in the hand of the black
30 BAYOU L OMBRE.
The prisoners were so young, so handsome, so
heroic ; the very incarnation of the holy spirit of
patriotism in their pathetic uniform of brimless
caps, ragged jackets, toeless shoes, and shrunken
trousers — a veteran equipment of wretchedness
out of keeping with their fresh young faces. How
proud and unsubdued they walked through the
hall between the file of bayonets! With what
haughty, defiant eyes they returned the gaze of
their insultingly resplendent conquerors ! Oh, if
girls' souls had been merchantable at that moment !
Their hands tied behind their backs like runaway
slaves ! Locked up in the smoke - house ! that
dark, rancid, gloomy, mouldy depot of empty hogs-
heads, barrels, boxes, and fetid exhalations.
They were the first soldiers in gray the girls
had ever seen ; their own chivalrous knights, the
champions of their radiant country. What was
the story of their calamity? Treacherously en-
trapped .-• Overpowered by numbers ? Where
were their companions — staring with mute, cold,
upturned faces from pools of blood ? And were
these to be led helplessly tethered into cap-
tivity, imprisoned ; with ball and chain to gan-
grene and disgrace their strong young limbs, or
was solitary confinement to starve their hearts and
craze their minds, holding death in a thousand
loathsome, creeping shapes ever threatejiingly
over them ?
The smoke-house looked sinister and inimical
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 31
after its sudden promotion from keeper of food
to keeper of men. The great square whitewashed
logs seemed to settle more ponderously on the
ground around them, the pointed roof to press
down as if the air of heaven were an emissary to
be dreaded ; the hinges and locks were so osten-
tatiously massive and incorruptible. What artful,
what vindictive security of carpenter and lock-
smith to exclude thieves or immure patriots !
The two eldest girls stood against the open
armoire with their chill fingers interlaced. Be-
yond the wrinkled back of Uncle John's copperas-
dyed coat before them lay the region of brass
buttons and blue cloth and hostility; but they
would not look at it ; they turned their heads
away; the lids of their eyes refused to lift and
reveal the repugnant vision to them. If their
ears had only been equally sensitive !
" And so you are the uncle of the young ladies ?
Brother of the father or mother.'"' What clear,
incisive, nasal tones ! Thank Heaven for the dif-
ference between them of the voice at least !
The captain's left arm was in a sling, but his
hand could steadily hold the note-book in which
he carefully pencilled Uncle John's answers to
his minute cross-examination — a dainty, fragrant,
Russia - leather note - book, with monogram and
letters and numbers emblazoned on the outside
in national colors. It had photographs inside,
also, which he would pause and admire from time
32 BAYOU L OMBRE.
to time, reading the tender dedications aloud to
"And the lady in the kitchen called mammy?
She is the mother, I guess ?"
" P-p-p-peggy's a nigger, and my mistresses is
white," stuttered Uncle John.
" Ah, indeed ! Gentlemen in my uniform find
it difficult to remember these trifling distinctions
What tawdry pleasantry ! What hypocritical
courtesy ! What exquisite ceremony and dainty
manual for murderous dandies !
" Ef-ef-ef-ef I hadn't done gone and forgot dem
Uncle John stood before his young mistresses
erect and determined, his old double-barrel shot-
gun firmly clasped in his tremulous hands, his
blear, bloodshot eyes fearlessly measuring the
foe. If it were to be five hundred lashes on his
bare back under the trees out there (terms on
which he would gladly have compromised), or,
his secret fear, a running noose over one of the
branches, or the murderous extravagance of powder
and shot for him, he had made up his mind, de-
spite every penalty, to fulfil his duty and stand by
his word to Marse John. Ever since the time the
little crawling white boy used to follow the great
awkward black boy around like a shadow, John had
made a cult of Marse John. He had taught him
as a child to fish, hunt, trap birds, to dress skins.
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 33
knit gloves, and play cards on the sly, to fight
cocks on Sunday, to stutter, to cut the "pigeon
wing " equal to any negro in the State — and other
personal accomplishments besides. He had stood
by him through all his scrapes as a youth, was
valet to all his frolics as a young man, and now
in his old age he gardened for him, and looked
after the young ladies for him, stretching or con-
tracting his elastic moral code as occasion re-
quired ; but he had never deceived him nor falsi-
fied his word to him. He knew all about the
war : Marse John had told him. He knew what
Marse John meant when he left the children to
him, and Marse John knew what to expect from
John. He would treat them civilly as long as
they were civil, but his gun was loaded, both bar-
rels with bullets, and —
" Ef-ef-ef-ef I hadn't done gone and forgot dera
There was his powder-horn under one arm,
there was his shot-flask filled with the last batch
of slugs under the other ; but the caps were not
in his right-hand coat-pocket, they were in his
cupboard, hidden for safety under a pile of gar-
den " truck."
The busy martins twittered in and out of their
little lodge under the eaves of the smoke-house.
Regina and Christine were powerless to prevent
furtive glances in that direction. Could ihepn's-
oners hear it inside ? Could they see the sun trav-
34 BAYOU L OMBRE.
elling westward, crack by crack, chink by chink, in
the roof? Could they feel it sinking, and with it
sinking all their hopes of deliverance ? Or did
they hope still ?
Maidens had mounted donjon towers at mid-
night, had eluded Argus-eyed sentinels, had
drugged savage blood-hounds, had crossed light-
ning-flashed seas, had traversed robber -infested
forests ; whatever maidens had done they would
do, for could ever men more piteously implore
release from castle keep than these gray- clad
youths from the smoke-house? And did ever
maiden hearts beat more valiantly than theirs ?
(and did ever maiden limbs tremble more cow-
ardly ?) Many a tedious day had been lightened
by their rehearsal of just such a drama as this ;
they had prepared roles for every imaginable san-
guinary circumstance, but prevision, as usual, had
overlooked the unexpected. The erstwhile fea-
sible conduct, the erstwhile feasible weapons, of a
Jeanne d'Arc or Charlotte Corday, the defiant
speeches, the ringing retorts — how inappropriate,
inadequate, here and now ! If God would only
help them ! but, like the bayou, the cypresses, and
the blue sky, He seemed to-day eternally above
such insignificant human necessities as theirs.
Without the aid of introspection or the fear of
capital punishment, Lolotte found it very difficult
to maintain the prolonged state of rigidity into
which her sisters had frozen themselves. All the
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 35
alleviations devised during a wearisome experi-
ence of compulsory attendance on plantation fu-
nerals were exhausted in the course of this pro-
tracted, hymnless, prayerless solemnity. She
stood wedged in between them and the armoire
which displayed all its shelves of allurements to
her. There were her bird-traps just within reach ;
there was the fascinating bag of nux-vomica root
' — crow poison ; there was the little old work-box
filled with ammunition, which she was forbidden
to touch, and all the big gar-fish lines and har-
poons and decoy-ducks. There were her own
perch lines, the levy she had raised in favor of
her companions ; they were neatly rolled, ready
to tie on the rods, only needing sinkers ; and
there was the old Indian basket filled with odds
and ends, an unfailing treasure of resource and
surprise. She was just about searching in it for
sinkers when this interruption occurred.
The sky was so bright over the fields ! Just
the evening to go fishing, whether they caught
anything or not. If the enemy would only hurry
and go, there might still be time ; they would
leave, they said, as soon as mammy cooked them
something to eat. She had seen mammy chasing
a chicken through the yard. She wondered how
the nice, fat little round " doodles " were getting
on in their tin can under the house ; she never
had had such a fine box of bait ; she wondered
if the negro children would go all the same with-
36 BAYOU LORIBRE.
out her; she wondered if she could see them
creeping down the road. How easy she could
have got away from Uncle John ! Anything al-
most would do for sinkers — bits of iron, nails ;
they had to do since her father and Uncle John
made their last moulding of bullets. She thought
they might have left her just one real sinker sim-
ply as a matter of distinction between herself and
the little darkies. Her eyes kept returning to the
Indian basket, and if she stopped twisting her fin-
gers one over the other but a moment they would
take their way to rummaging among the rusty
" Glory ! Freedom !"
In came the negresses, Bacchantes drunk with
the fumes of their own hot blood, Dead-arm Har-
riet, like a triumphant sorceress, leading them,
waving and gesticulating with her one " live " arm,
all repeating over and over again the potent
magical words, oblivious of the curious looks of
the men, their own exposure, the presence of their
mistresses, of everything but^their own ecstasy.
" Freedom ! Master ! Freedom !"
Christine and Regina raised their heads and
looked perplexed at the furious women in the
yard, and the men gazing down to them.
What was the matter with them ? What did
they mean ? What was it all about .-'
" Freedom ! Freedom !"
Then light broke upon them ; their fingers
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 37
tightened in each other's clasp, and their cheeks
"How dared they.? What insolence ! What — "
The opposite door stood open ; they rushed
across the hall and closed it between them and
the liLmiiliating scene. This, this they had not
thought of, this they had never read about, this
their imagination in wildest flights had not vent-
ured upon. This was not a superficial conflict
to sweep the earth with cannons and mow it with
sabres ; this was an earthquake which had rent
it asunder, exposing the quivering organs of hid-
den life. What a chasm was yawning before
them ! There was no need to listen one to the
other ; the circumstances could wring from the
hearts of millions but one sentiment, the tongue
was left no choice of words.
" Let them go ! let them be driven out ! never,
never to see them again !"
The anger of outraged affection, betrayed con-
fidence, abandoned trust, traitorous denial, raged
These were their servants, their possessions !
From generation to generation their lives had
been woven together by the shuttle of destiny.
How flimsy and transparent the fabric ! how gro-
tesque and absurd the tapestry, with its vaunted
traditions of mutual loyalty and devotion ! What
a farce, what a lying, disgusting farce it had all
been ! Well, it was over now ; that was a com-
38 BAYOU l'OMBRE.
fort — all over, all ended. If the hearts had in-
tergrown, they were torn apart now. After this
there was no return, no reconciliation possible !
Through the storm of their emotions a thought
drifted, then another ; little detached scenes flit-
ted into memory; familiar gestures, speeches,
words, one reminiscence drawing another. Thick-
er and thicker came little episodes of their pas-
toral existence together ; the counter interchanges
of tokens, homely presents, kind offices, loving
remembrances ; the mutual assistance and con-
solation in all the accidents "of life traversed to-
gether, the sicknesses, the births, the deaths ; and
so many thousand trivial incidents of long, long
ago — memory had not lost one — down to the
fresh eggs and the pop-corn of that very morning ;
they were all there, falling upon their bruised
In the hearts of the women out there were only
shackles and scourges. What of the long Sun-
days of Bible - reading and catechism, the long
evenings of woodland tales ; the confidences ;
the half-hours around the open fireplaces when
supper was cooking, the potatoes under their
hillocks of ashes, the thin-legged ovens of corn-
bread with their lids of glowing coals, the savory
skillets of fried meat, the — Was it indeed all
of the past, never again to be present or future ?
And those humble, truthful, loving eyes, which
had looked up to them from the first moment
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 39
of their lives : did they look with greater trust
up to God Himself? It was all over, yes, all
over ! The color faded from their faces, the
scornful resolution left their lips ; they laid their
faces in their hands and sobbed.
" Do you hear, Titine ?" Lolotte burst into
the room. " They are all going to leave, every
one of them ; a transport is coming to-night to
take them off. They are going to bundle up
their things and wait at the steamboat-landing ;
and they are not going to take a child, and not
a single husband. The captain says the govern-
ment at Washington will give them the nicest
white husbands in the land ; that they ought to
be glad to marry them. They carried on as if
they were drunk. Do you believe it, Titine ?
Oh, I do wish Jeff Davis would hurry up and
The door opened again ; it was Black Maria,
still holding the cane - knife in her hand. She
crossed the room with her noiseless barefooted
tread, and placed herself behind them. They
did not expect her to say anything ; Black Maria
never talked much ; but they understood her, as
they always did.
Her skirts were still tied up, her head-kerchief
awry; they saw for the first time that the wool
under it was snow-white.
Black Maria! They might have known it!
They looked at her. No ! She was not ! She
40 BAYOU L OMBRE.
was not negro, like the others. Who was she ?
What was she ? Wliere did she come from, with
her white features and white nature under her
ebon skin ? What was the mystery that envel-
oped her ? Why did the brain always torture it-
self in surmises about her ? Why did she not
talk as the others did, and just for a moment un-
cover that coflfin heart of hers? Why was she,
alone of all the negroes, still an alien, a foreigner,
an exile among them ? Was she brooding on
disgrace, outrage, revenge ? Was she looking at
some mirage behind her — a distant equatorial
country, a princely rank, barbaric state, some in-
herited memory transmitted by that other Black
Maria, her mother ? Who was the secret black
father whom no one had discovered ? Was it, as
the negroes said, the Prince of Darkness ? Who
was her own secret consort, the father of Ben ?
What religion had she to warrant her scornful re-
pudiation of Christianity ? What code that en-
abled her to walk as if she were free through
slavery, to assume slavery now when others hailed
freedom, to be loyal in the midst of treason ?
"Look!" Lolotte came into the room, and held
up a rusty, irregular piece of iron. " I found
this in the old Indian basket where I was look-
ing for sinkers. Don't you see what it is ? It is
the old key of the smoke-house, and I am going
to let those Confederates out." She spoke
quietly and decidedly. I'here was something
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 41
else in the other hand, concealed in the folds of
her dress. She produced it reluctantly. It was
the gun-wrench that filled so prominent a part in
her active life — always coveting it, getting pos-
session of it, being deprived of it, and accused
unfailingly for its every absence and misplace-
ment. " You see, it is so convenient ; it screws
so nicely on to everything," she continued, apol-
ogetically, as she demonstrated the useful qualifi-
cation by screwing it on to the key. " There ! it
is as good as a handle. All they've got to do is
to slip away in the skiff while the others are eat-
ing. And I would like to know how they can
ever be caught, without another boat on the
place ! But oh, girls " — her black eyes twinkled
maliciously — " what fools the Yankees are 1"
If the Federals, as they announced, were only
going to remain long enough for the lady in the
kitchen to prepare them something to eat, the
length of their stay clearly rested in Peggy the
cook's hands, as she understood it. She walked
around her kitchen with a briskness rarely per-
mitted by her corpulent proportions, and with an
intuitive faith in the common nature of man re-
gardless of political opinion, she exerted her cu-
linary skill to the utmost. She knew nothing of
the wholesale quarrelling and fighting of a great
war, but during her numerous marital experi-
ments, not counting intermittent conjugalities for
twenty-five years with Uncle John, she had seen
42 BAYOU l'OMBRE.
inercy and propitiation flow more than once after
a good meal from the most irate ; and a healthy
digestion aiding, she never despaired of even
the most revengeful. The enemy, in her opinion,
were simply to' be treated like furious husbands,
and were to be offered the best menu possible
under the trying circumstances. She worked, in-
spired by all the wife-lore of past ages, the infil-
trated wisdom that descends to women in the
course of a world of empirical connubiality, that
traditionary compendium to their lives by which
they still hope to make companionship with men
harmonious and the earth a pleasant abiding-place.
With minute particularity Peggy set the table and
placed the dishes. The sun was now sinking, and
sending almost horizontal rays over the roof of
the smoke-house, whose ugly square frame com-
pletely blocked the view of the dining-room win-
dow. Peggy carefully drew the red calico curtain
across it, and after a moment's rehearsal to bring
her features to the conventional womanly ex-
pression of cheerful obtuseness to existing dis-
pleasure, she opened the dining-room door.
Gina and Lolotte stood close under the win-
dow against the dwelling, looking at the locked
door of the smoke-house before them, listening to
the sounds falling from the dining-room above.
Once in the skiff, the prisoners were safe ; but
the little red curtain of the window fluttering
flimsily in the breeze coquetted with their hopes
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 43
and the lives of three men. If the corners would
but stay down a second ! Titine and Black Ma-
ria were in front, busy about the skiff. Peggy's
culinary success appeared, from the comments of
the diners, to be complimentary to her judgment.
But food alone, however, does not suffice in
the critical moments of life ; men are half man-
aged when only fed. There was another menu,
the ingredients of which were not limited or
stinted by blockade of war. Fe.ggy had pre-
pared that also ; and in addition to the sounds
of plates, knives, forks, and glasses, came the
tones of her rich voice dropping from a quick
tongue the entremets of her piquant imagination.
The attention in the room seemed tense, and at
last the curtain hung straight and motionless.
" Now ! now !" whispered Gina. " We must
Woman-like, they paused midway and looked
back ; a hand stretched from the table was care-
lessly drawing the curtain aside, and the window
stared unhindered at the jail.
Why had they waited ? Why had they not
rushed forward immediately 1 By this time their
soldiers might have been free ! They could hear
Peggy moving around the table ; they could see
her bulky form push again and again across the
" Mammy ! Mammy !"
Could she hear them ? They clasped their
44 BAYOU L OMBRE.
hands and held their faces up in imploring ap-
peal. The sun was setting fast, almost running
down the west to the woods. The dinner, if good,
was not long. It all depended upon Peggy now.
" Mammy ! Mammy !" They raised their lit-
tle voices, then lowered them in agony of appre-
hension. " Mammy, do something ! Help us !"
But still she passed on and about, around the
table, and across the window, blind to the smoke-
house, deaf to them, while her easy, familiar
voice recited the comical gyrations of " old Friz-
zly," the half-witted hen, who had set her heart
against being killed and stewed, and ran and hid,
and screamed and cackled, and ducked and flew,
and then, after her silly head was twisted off,
"just danced, as if she were at a "Cadian' ball,
all over the yard."
It would soon be too late ! It was, perhaps,
too late now !
Black Maria had got the skiff away from the
gunnels, but they might just as well give it up ;
they would not have time enough now.
" Mammy !" The desperate girls made a su-
preme effort of voice and look. The unctuous
black face, the red bead ear-rings, the bandanna
head-kerchief, appeared at the window with " old
Frizzly's " last dying cackle. There was one
flashing wink of the left eye.
Her nurslings recognized then her piece dc re-
sistance oratoire — a side-splitting prank once
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR.
played upon her by another nursling, her pet, her
idol, the plague of her life — Beau.
Who could have heard grating lock or squeak-
ing hinges through the boisterous mirth that fol-
lowed? Who could have seen the desperate
bound of the three imprisoned soldiers for liberty
through that screen of sumptuous flesh — the mag-
nificent back of Mammy that filled to overlap-
ping the insignificant little window ?
They did not wait to hear the captain's rapt-
urous toast to Peggy in sassafras tea, nor his vol-
uble protestations of love to her, nor could they
see him in his excitement forgetting his wounded
arm, bring both clinched fists with a loud bravo
to the table, and then faint dead away.
" I knew it !"
" Just like him !"
" Take him in the air — quick !"
" No, sir ! You take him in there, and put
him on the best bed in the house." Peggy did
not move from the window, but her prompt com-
mand turned the soldiers from the door in the
hall, and her finger directed them to the closed
Without noticing Christine standing by the
open window, they dropped their doughty bur-
den — boots, spurs, sword, epaulets, and all — on
the fresh, white little bed, the feather mattress
flufling up all around as if to submerge him.
" Oh, don't bother about that ; cut the sleeve off!"
46 BAYOU L OMBRE.
" Who has a knife ?"
"That's all right now."
" He's coming round."
" There's one nice coat spoiled."
"Uncle Sam has plenty more."
" Don't let it drip on the bed."
" Save it to send to Washington — trophy — wet
with rebel blood."
The captain was evidently recovering.
"You stay here while I keep 'em eating," whis-
pered Peggy, authoritatively, to Christine.
Titine trembled as if she had an ague.
" How could they help seeing the tall form of
Black Maria standing in the prow of the boat out
in the very middle of the bayou ? Suppose she,
Titine, had not been there to close the window
quick as thought ? Suppose instead of passing
through her room she had run through the base-
ment, as she intended, after pushing off the skiff ?"
Rollicking, careless, noisj^, the soldiers went
back to their interrupted meal, while the boat
went cautiously clown the bayou to the meeting
place beyond the clearing.
" How far was Black Maria now ?" Titine
opened the window a tiny crack. " Heavens !
how slowly she paddled ! lifting the oar deliber-
ately from side to side, looking straight ahead.
How clear and distinct she was in the soft even-
ing light ! Why did she not hurry ? why did she
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR.
not row? She could have muffled the oars. But
no, no one thought of that ; that was always the
way — always something overlooked and forgotten.
The soldiers could finish a dozen dinners before
the skiff got out of sight at this rate. Without the
skiff the prisoners might just as well be locked
still in the smoke-house. Did he on the bed sus-
pect something, seeing her look out this way?"
She closed the window tight.
" How dark the room was ! She could hardly
see the wounded man. How quiet he was ! Was
he sleeping, or had he fainted again ? In her bed !
her enemy lying in her bed ! his head on her pil-
low, her own little pillow, the feverish confidant
of so many sleepless nights ! How far were they
now on the bayou? She must peep out again.
Why, Maria had not moved ! not moved an inch !
Oh, if she could only scream to her ! if she were
only in the skiff !
" How ghastly pale he looked on the bed ! his
face as white as the coverlet, his hair and beard
so black ; how changed without his bravado and
impertinence! And he was not old, either; not
older than the boys in gray. She had fancied
that age and ugliness alone could go with violence
and wrong. How much gold ! how much glitter !
Why, the sun did not rise with more splendor of
equipment. Costumed as if for the conquest of
worlds. If the Yankees dressed their captains
this way, what was the livery of their generals ?
48 BAYOU L OMBRE.
How curious the sleeveless arm looked ! What
a horrible mark the gash made right across the
soft white skin ! What a scar it would leave !
What a disfigurement ! And this, this is what
men call love of country !"
On Saturday nights sometimes, in the quarters,
when rum had been smuggled in, the negroes
would get to fighting and beating their wives, and
her father would be sent for in a hurry to come
with his gun and separate them. Hatchets, axes,
cane-knives — anything they would seize, to cut
and slash one another, husbands, wives, mothers,
sons, sisters, brothers; but they were negroes,
ignorant, uneducated, barbarous, excited ; they
could not help it ; they could not be expected to
resist all at once the momentum of centuries of
ancestral ferocity. But for white men, gentlemen,
thus furiously to mar and disfigure their own
mother-given bodies ! All the latent maternal in-
stinct in her was roused, all the woman in her re-
volted against the sacrilegious violence of muti-
lation. " Love of country to make her childless,
or only the mother of invalids! This was only
one. What of the other thousands and hundreds
of thousands ? Are men indeed so inexhaustible ?
Are the pangs of maternity so cheap ? Are wom-
en's hearts of no account whatever in the settle-
ment of disputes? O God! cannot the world
get along without war ? But even if men want it,
even if God permits it, how can the women allow
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR.
it ? If the man on the bed were a negro, she
could do something for his arm. Many a time,
early Sunday mornings, Saturday night culprits
had come to her secretly, and she had washed off
the thick, gummy blood, and bandaged up their
cuts and bruises ; they did not show so on black
skin. . . . This man had a mother somewhere
among the people she called ' enemies ;' a mother
sitting counting day by day the continued posses-
sion of a live son, growing gray and old before
that terrible next minute ever threatening to take
her boy and give her a corpse. Or perhaps, like
her own, his mother might be dead. They might
be friends in that kingdom which the points of the
compass neither unite nor divide ; together they
might be looking down on this quarrelling, fight-
ing world ; mothers, even though angels, looking,
looking through smoke and powder and blood
and hatred after their children. Their eyes
might be fixed on this lonely little spot, on this
room. . . ." She walked to the bed.
The blood was oozing up through the strips of
plaster. She stanched and bathed and soothed
the wound as she well knew how with her tender,
agile fingers, and returned to the window. Maria
had disappeared now ; she could open the window
with impunity. The trackless water was flowing
innocently along, the cooling air was rising in mist,
the cypress -trees checked the brilliant sky with
the filigree and net-work of their bristly foliage.
50 BAYOU L OMBRE.
The birds twittered, the chickens loitered and
dallied on their way to roost. The expectant dogs
were lying on the levee waiting for the swampers,
who, they ought to know, could not possibly re-
turn before midnight. And Molly was actually on
time this evening, lowing for mammy to come and
milk her ; what was the war to her ? How happy
and peaceful it all was ! What a jarring contrast
to swords and bayonets ! Thank God that Nature
was impartial, and could not be drilled into par-
tisanship ! If humanity were like Nature ! If —
if there had been no war ! She paused, shocked
at her first doubt ; of the great Circumstance of
her life it was like saying, " If there had been no
As she stood at the window and thought, all the
brilliant coloring of her romantic fantasies, the
stories of childhood, the perversions of education,
the self-delusions, they all seemed to fade with
the waning light, and with the beautiful day sink
slowly and quietly into the irrevocable past.
" Thank God, above all, that it is a human de-
vice to uniform people into friends and enemies !
The heart (her own felt so soft and loving) — the
heart repudiates such attempts of blue and gray ;
it still clings to Nature, and belongs only to God."
She thought the wound must need tending again,
and returned to the bed. The patient, meanwhile,
went in and out of the mazes of unconsciousness
caused by weakness.
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 51
" Was that really he on this foamy bed ? What
a blotch his camp-battered body made down the
centre of it ! It was good to be on a bed once
more, to look up into a mosquito-bar instead of
the boughs of trees, to feel his head on a pillow.
But why did they put him there ? Why did they
not lay him somewhere on the floor, outside on
the ground, instead of soiling and crumpling this
He could observe his nurse through his half-
closed lids, which fell as she approached the bed,
and closed tight as she bent above him. When
she stood at the window he could look full at her.
" How innocent and unsuspecting she looked !"
The strained rigidity had passed away from her
face. Her transparent, child-like eyes were look-
ing with all their life of expression in the direc-
tion of the bed, and then at something passing in
her own mind. " Thank Heaven, the fright had
all gone out of them ! How horrible for a gentle-
man to read fear in the eyes of a woman ! Her
mind must be as pure and white, yes, and as im-
pressionable, too, as her bed. Did his presence lie
like a blot upon it also ? How she must hate
him ! how she must loathe him ! Would it have
been different if he had come in the other uniform
— if he had worn the gray ? would she then have
cared for him, have administered to him ? How
slight and frail she was ! What a wan, wistful
little face between him and the gloomy old bayou !
52 BAYOU l'oMBRE.
He could see her more plainly now since she had
opened the window and let in the cool, fragrant
air. There was no joyous development of the
body in her to proclaim womanhood, none of the
seductive, confident beauty that follows corona-
tion of youth ; to her had only come the care and
anxiety of maturity. This — this,'" he exclaimed
to himself, " is the way women fight a war." Was
she coming this way .'' Yes. To the bed ? Hard-
ly. Now she was pressing against it, now bend-
ing over him, now dropping a cooling dew from
heaven on his burning arm, and now — oh, why so
soon ? — she was going away to stand and look
out of the window again.
The homely little room was filled with femi-
nine subterfuges for ornament, feminine substi-
tutes for comfort. How simple women are ! how
little they require, after all ! only peace and love
and quiet, only the impossible in a masculine
world. What was she thinking of ? If he could
only have seen the expression of her eyes as she
bent over him ! Suppose he should open his and
look straight up at her ? but no, he had not the
courage to frighten her again. He transplanted
her in his mind to other surroundings, her proper
surroundings by birthright, gave her in abun-
dance all of which this war had deprived her,
presented to her assiduous courtiers, not reckless
soldiers like himself, but men whom peace had
guided in the lofty sphere of intellectual pursuits.
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 53
He held before her the sweet invitations of youth,
the consummations of Hfe. He made her smile,
" Ah !" — he turned his face against the pillow
— "had that sad face ever laughed? Could any
woman laugh during a war ? Could any triumph,
however glorious, atone for battles that gave men
death, but left the women to live ? This was only
one; how many, wan and silent as she, were look-
ing at this sunset — the sunset not of a day, but
a life ? \Mien it was all over, who was to make
restitution to them, the women ? Was any cost
too great to repurchase for them simply the privi-
lege of hoping again ? What an endless chain of
accusing thoughts ! What a miserable conviction
tearing his heart ! If he could get on his knees to
her, if he could kiss her feet, if he could beg par-
don in the dust — he, a man for all men, of her, a
woman for all women. If he could make her his
country, not to fight, but to work for, it . . ."
She came to his side again, she bent over him,
she touched him.
Impulsive, thoughtless, hot-headed, he opened
his eyes full, he forgot again the wounded arm.
With both hands he stayed her frightened start; he
saw the expression of her eyes bending over him.
" Can you forgive me .'' It is a heartless, cow-
ardly trick ! I am not a Yankee ; I am Beau,
your cousin, the guerilla."
The door of the smoke-house opened, the es-
BAYOU L OMBRE.
caped soldiers ran like deer between the furrows
of Uncle John's vegetable garden, where the wav-
ing corn leaves could screen them ; then out to
the bank of the bayou — not on the levee, but close
against the fence — snagging their clothes and
scratching their faces and hands on the cuckle-
burs ; Lolotte in front, with a stick in her hand,
beating the bushes through habit to frighten the
snakes, calling, directing, animating, in excited
whispers ; Regina in the rear, urging, pressing,
sustaining the young soldier lagging behind, but
painfully striving with stiffened limbs to keep up
with the pace of his older, more vigorous compan-
ions. Ahead of them Black Maria was steadily
keeping the skiff out in the current. The bayou
narrowed and grew dark as it entered between
the banks of serried cypress- trees, where night
had already begun.
Regina looked hurriedly over her shoulder.
" Had they found out yet at the house } How
slowly she ran ! How long it took to get to the
woods ! Oh, they would have time over and over
again to finish their dinner and catch them. Per-
haps at this very moment, as she was thinking of it,
some forgotten article in the skiff was betraying
them ! Perhaps a gun might even now be point-
ing down their path ! Or, now ! the bullet could
start and the report come too late to warn
She looked back again and again.
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 55
From the little cottage under the trees the
curtains fluttered, but no bayonet nor smooth-bore
She met her companion's face, looking back
also, but not for guns — for her. " If it had been
different ! If he had been a visitor, come to stay ;
days and evenings to be passed together !" The
thought lifting the sulphurous war-clouds from her
heart, primitive idyls burst into instantaneous fra-
grant bloom in it like spring violets. He was not
only the first soldier in gray she had ever seen,
but the first young man ; or it seemed so to her.
Again she looked back.
" How near they were still to the house ! how
plainly they could yet be seen ! He could be
shot straight through the back, the gray jacket
getting one stain, one bullet-hole, more, the coun-
try one soldier less. Would they shoot through
a woman at him ? Would they be able to sepa-
rate them if she ran close behind him, moving
this way and that way, exactly as he did .'' If she
saw them in time she could warn him ; he could
lie flat down in the grass; then it would be im-
possible to hit him."
Increasing and narrowing the space between
them at the best of each succeeding contradic-
tory thought, turning her head again and again
to the house behind her, she lost speed. Lolotte
and the two men had already entered the forest
before she reached it. Coming from the fields,
56 BAYOU l'oMBRE.
the swamps seemed midnight dark. Catching her
companion's hand, they groped their way along,
tripped by the slimy cypress knees that rose like
evil gnomes to beset and entangle their feet,
slipping over rolling logs, sinking in stagnant mire,
noosed by the coils of heavy vines that dropped
from unseen branches overhead. Invisible wings
of startled birds flapped above them, the croak-
ing of frogs ebbed and flowed around them, owls
shrieked and screamed from side to side of the
bayou. Lolotte had ceased her beating ; swamp
serpents are too sluggish to be frightened away.
In the obscurity, Black Maria could be dimly
seen turning the skiff to a half-submerged log,
from which a turtle dropped as if ballasted with
lead. A giant cypress -tree arrested them; the
smooth, fluted trunk, ringed with whitish water-
marks, recording floods far over their heads ;
where they were scrambling once swam fish and
serpents. The young soldier turned and faced
her, the deliverer, whose manoeuvres in the open
field had not escaped him.
She had saved him from imprisonment, insult,
perhaps death — the only heir of a heroic father,
the only son of a widowed mother ; she had re-
stored him to a precious heritage of love and
honor, replaced him in the interrupted ambitious
career of patriotic duty ; she had exposed her life
for him — she was beautiful. She stood before
him, panting, tremulous, ardent, with dumb, open
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 57
red lips, and voluble, passionate eyes, and with a
long scratch in her white cheek from which the
blood trickled. She had much to say to him, her
gray uniformed hero ; but how in one moment
express four years — four long years — and the last
long minutes. The words were all there, had been
rushing to her lips all day ; her lips were parted ;
but the eager, overcrowded throng were jammed
on the threshold ; and her heart beat so in her
ears ! He could not talk ; he could not explain.
His companions were already in the boat, his ene-
mies still in gunshot. He bent his face to hers in
the dim light to learn by heart the features he must
never forget — closer, closer, learning, knowing
more and more, with the eager precocity of youth.
Bellona must have flown disgusted away with
the wings of an owl,. Columbia might have nod-
ded her head as knowingly as old Aunt Mary
could, when the callow hearts, learning and know-
ing, brought the faces closer and closer together,
until the lips touched.
" I shall come again ; I shall come again. Wait
for me. Surely I shall come again,"
Black Maria pushed the skiff off. " Rowlock !
Rowlock !" They were safe and away.
A vociferous group stood around the empty
gunnels. Uncle John, with the daring of despera-
tion, advanced, disarmed as he was, towards them.
58 BAYOU L OMBRE.
" I-I-I-I don't keer ef you is de-de-de President
o' de United States hisself, I ain't gwine to 'low no
such cussin' an' swearin' in de hearin' o' de-de-de
young ladies. Marse John he-he-he don't 'low it,
and when Marse John ain't here I-I-I don't 'low it."
His remonstrance and heroic attitude had very
little effect, for the loud talk went on, and chiefly
by ejaculation, imprecation, and self-accusation
published the whole statement of the case ; under-
standing which. Uncle John added his voice also:
" Good Gord A'mighty ! Wh-wh-what's dat you
say ? Dey — dey — dey Yankees, an' you Cornfed-
rits ? Well, sir, an' are you Marse Beau — you wid
your arm hurted ? Go 'long ! You can't fool me ;
Marse Beau done had more sense en dat. My
Gord ! an' dey wuz Yankees ? You better cuss —
cussin's about all you kin do now. Course de
boat's gone. You'll never ketch up wid 'em in
Gord's world now. Don't come along arter me
about it .' 'Tain't my fault. How wuz I to know ?
You wuz Yankees enough for me. I declar',
Marse Beau, you ought to be ashamed o' your-
self ! You wanted to I'arn dem a lesson ! I reck-
on dey I'arnt you one ! You didn't mean 'em no
harm ! Humph ! dey've cut dey eye-teeth, dey
have ! Lord ! Marse Beau, I thought you done
knowed us better. Did you really think we wuz
a-gwine to let a passel o' Yankees take us away
off our own plantation } You must done forgot
us. We jes cleaned out de house for 'em, we did
AN INCIDENT OF THE WAR. 59
— clo'es, food, tobacco, rum. De young ladies
'ain't lef a mossel for Marse John. An' — an' —
an' 'fore de good Gord, my gun ! Done tuck my
gun away wid 'em ! Wh-wh-wh-what you mean
by such doin's ? L-l-look here, Marse Beau, I
don't like dat, nohow ! Wh-wh-what ! you tuck
my gun and gin it to de Yankees ? Dat's my
gun ! I done had dat gun twenty-five year an'
more ! Dog-gone ! Yes, sir, I'll cuss — I'll cuss
ef I wants to ! I 'ain't got no use for gorillas,
nohow ! Lem me 'lone, I tell you ! lem me 'lone !
Marse John he'll get de law o' dat ! Who's 'spon-
sible ? Dat's all I want to know — who's 'sponsi-
ble ? Ef-ef-ef-ef— No, sir ; dar ain't nary boat
on de place, nor hereabouts. Yes, sir; you kin
cross de swamp ef you kin find de way. No, sir
— no, sir; dar ain't no one to show you. I ain't
gwine to leave de young ladies twell Marse John
he comes back. Yes, I reckon you kin git to de
cut-off by to-morrow mornin', ef you ain't shot on
de way for Yankees, an' ef your company is fool
enough to wait for you. No, sir, I don't know
nothin' 'bout nothin' ; you better wait an' arsk
Marse John. ... My Gord! I'm obleeged to
laugh ; I can't help it. Dem fool nigger wimen
a-sittin' on de brink o' de byer, dey clo'es tied up
in de bedquilts, an' de shotes an' de puUits all
kilt, a-waitin' for freedom ! I lay dey' 11 git free-
dom enough to-night when de boys come home.
Dey git white gentlemen to marry 'em ! Dey'll
60 BAYOU L'OMBRE.
git five hundred apiece. Marse Beau, Gord '11
punish you for dis— He surely will. I done tole
Marse John long time ago he oughter sell dat
brazen nigger Dead-arm Harriet, an' git shet o'
her. Lord ! Lord ! Lord ! Now you done gone
to cussin' an' swearin' agin. Don't go tearin' off
your jackets an' flingin' em at me. We don't
want 'em ; we buys our clo'es — what we don't
make. Yes, Marse John '11 be comin' along pret-
ty soon now. What's your hurry, Marse Beau .-•
Well, so long, ef you won't stay. He ain't got
much use for gorillas neither, Marse John hain't."
The young officer wrote a few hasty words on
a leaf torn from the pretty Russia-leather note-
book, and handed it to the old darky. " For
your Marse John."
"For Marse John — yes, sir; I'll gin hit to him
soon 's he comes in."
They had dejectedly commenced their weary
tramp up the bayou ; he called him back, and
lowered his voice confidentially : " Marse Beau,
when you captured dat transport and stole all
dem fixin's an' finery, you didn't see no good
chawin' tobacco layin' round loose, did you?
Thanky! thanky, child! Now I looks good at
you, you ain't so much changed sence de times
Marse John used to wallop you for your tricks.
Well, good-bye, Marse Beau."
On the leaf were scrawled the words :
".All's up ! Lee has surrendered. — Beau."
>T was in a part of the city once
truthfully, now conventionally, called
"back of town," and it had been
used as an obscure corner in which
to thrust domestic hearths not cred-
itable to the respectability assumed in the front
part of town ; where oil-lamps could be econom-
ically substituted for gas, and police indifference
for police protection.
The long rows of tallow- trees, with here and
there an oak, shaded an unpaved street and a
seemingly unbroken continuity of low cottages,
with heavy green doors and windows and little
wooden steps jutting out on to the banquette.
Their homely architectural physiognomies were
adapted to such an isolated, dimly-lighted locality,
and were frankly devoid of any beauty or pictu-
resqueness of expression. But as the banquette,
wrinkled and corrugated from the roots beneath,
retarded the steps of the passer-by, faintly as-
serting individualities might be discerned : de-
clensions of one -storied degrees of prosperity,
comparisons of industry and cleanliness, and pre-
64 BONNE MAMAN.
tensions to social precedence inherited from the
architect of a centnry ago, or acquired, perhaps,
by the thrift of a present tenant. The steps
were all scrubbed red with brick, or yellow with
wild camomile, which, besides gilding, lent them
a pleasant aromatic fragrance.
The quiet that reigned told that the street was
still back of town in all that a corporation sug-
gests of movement, bustle, and noise. The air
of desertion which hung about the little closed
cottages would have been oppressive had it not
been for the children — a motley crowd, accus-
ing an " olla podrida " parentage, chattering in
tongues as varied as their complexions, and rest-
less with the competing energies of hidden na-
tionalities in their veins. Dressed with tropical
disregard of conventionality, they were frank, im-
pudent, irrepressible ; at all times noisy and unan-
imous, swooping down the street at any moment
in eager response to some distant alarm, or tak-
ing swarming possession of whole rows of steps
with perfect disregard of any superior proprietary
The delusive similarity of the blocks would in
time generate in the passer-by the suspicion of a
treadmill under foot, did not the sharp point of
a triangular enclosure furnish a landmark in the
region by cutting into the very middle of the
street, parting the hitherto companion banquettes,
and sending them on at divergent angles in ever-
BONNE MAMAN. 65
increasing separation, until they were finally ar-
rested at unrecognizable distances apart by the
banks of the bayou. The fence of this obtruding
property may have been painted in front on the
other street, but to its apex it degenerated through
every stage of shabbiness and neglect. For a
screen the large square house inside was mostly
indebted to a hedge of orange-trees, which, raising
their heads proudly in the sun, illuminated the
ugly spot with their golden fruit in the winter,
and sanctified it in the spring with their blossoms.
The shaded banquettes along the sides of the
triangle were a constant temptation to the chil-
dren, alluring them, against experience, into the
range of the epithets and missiles of the children-
hating people within.
" AUez-vous-en !"
" Pestes de la terre !"
" Negrillons !"
" Tits demons !"
" Enfants du diable !"
The loss of a knot from one of the boards of
the fence furnished a providential peep-hole into
the mysteries of a " menage " from which abnor-
mal discoveries seemed constantly expected by
the children, and if persistence of attention could
have been relied upon, warnings might always
have been given for timely refuge on the steps of
the nearest little corner cottage. These offered an
66 BONNE MAMAN.
ideal juvenile place of refuge, where there were
no brick or camomile scrubbings to rebuke their
litter, no sudden front -door openings to sweep
them away in confusion, no front-window admo-
nitions or imprecations to disturb them, and ab-
solutely no banquette ordinances to taunt them
into wilfulness, but instead an upward glance
through the small opening of the bowed shutters
showed them the face of " la blanche mamzelle
la-ye " at her sewing.
They were too young to appreciate the fact that
the batten windows were bowed only when they
were there, or to wonder why they, the children,
were the only ones who ever saw her ; but they
did know that her face was whiter, her hair
straighter and finer, than human comparison for
them, and so they could not keep their eyes from
looking for responses from hers, nor their lips
from smiling invitingly at hers, nor their tongues
from sallies of wit intended for her ear alone.
To-day she paid little attention to them. They
could hear her " Miseres !" of impatience, and the
vexatious tapping of her foot, though they could
not see that she was manipulating some gaudy
woollen material which gave her infinite worry with
its ungracious, not to say stubborn, opposition to
a necessity which ordered its stripes to go flounc-
ing in diagonal procession round and round a skirt.
" Claire !" called a feeble voice from the back
BONNE MAMAN. 67
She raised her head incredulously.
" Claire ! Claire Blanche !"
A shade of disappointment passed over her face.
" Bonne maman !"
" Mais, Claire, fillette, where are you ?"
" I am coming, bonne maman."
She caught her work together and folded it in
a cloth before going into the other room.
" What are you doing, bebe ?"
" But my work, bonne maman."
"Ah ! I could not think where you were."
" I thought it was cooler in the other room."
"It is very warm in here."
" You are not going to get up, bonne maman ?
You have not finished your sleep yet."
" Have I not slept as long as usual?"
" No, indeed ; only a few minutes. That was
the reason I could not think it was you calling."
" Enfin, it is better for me to get up."
" But why, bonne maman .-' There is no ne-
cessity for you to get up earlier to-day than usual."
"As you say, it is warm here."
The old lady lay on her bed underneath the
mosquito bar, the straight folds of her white
" blouse volante " settled around her thin figure.
Claire picked up a fan, and putting back the
bar, commenced to fan her.
" Chere, bonne maman, try. Maybe you can
sleep some more."
The coaxing, caressing voice and the soft mo-
68 BONNE MAMAN.
tions of the fan had a soothing effect, and al-
though the grandmother repeated, " Yes, decided-
ly I had better get up," she made no effort to move.
" The weather is so warm and tiresome," con-
tinued the girl, suggesting an excuse for lethargy.
"Yes, as you sa}', it is warm and debilitating."
" But, just shut your eyes, bonne maman, and
try to sleep. You have not rested at all."
" Rest," she said, catching the word. " I do
not need rest ; I have worked very little to-day —
in fact, not at all."
" Oh, but I mean rest from thinking. Mon
Dieu ! if I thought as much as you, I could not
keep my eyes open at all."
The grandmother turned her head on the pil-
low, and did close her eyes.
Claire smiled with satisfaction. Her bright
face showed the reflection of cheerful interpreta-
tions alone, and her quick eyes, glancing over the
surface of things, gathered only pleasant sights.
She was going on tiptoe out of the room.
"Why do you not bring your work in here,
Claire, where I am ?"
" What, not asleep ? Vilaine !"
" But, my child, how you talk ! Sleep ? when I
have so much to finish !"
" Oh, there is plenty of time for that, bonne
maman. At least stay in bed a little longer."
" One would suppose that I was the grandchild
and you the bonne maman."
BONNE MAMAN. 69
Claire brought her work ; not the gaudy stripes,
but a piece of embroidery, and seated herself at
some distance from the bed, in the path of a ray
The old lady sighed heavily; her eyes were
fixed on Claire.
"But what is the matter, bonne maman?"
" Oh, nothing, nothing, cherie — only, what makes
you stoop so, Claire ?"
" Ah, that ugly habit ! Imbecile !"— slapping
her forehead — " can't you cure yourself, enfin ? I
ought to be well tapped for it, as I was at the con-
She straightened herself up to an uncomfort-
able degree of rectitude, which lasted as long as
the remembrance of her grandmother's sigh, and
she talked as if her needle could only move in
unison with her tongue.
" It was funny at the convent how many bad
habits I had. They seemed to grow on purpose
to be corrected. And I was so young, too. Bad
mark for this, en penitence for that, fool's-cap for
something else, twenty -five lines by heart for
something else. And all the time, ' Your grand-
mother never did this,' 'Your mother never did
that,' ' Ah, if you had seen your tante Stephanie,'
' Look at your cousin Adelaide.' Ma foi ! the
first lesson I learned was that I was like no
member of my family seen before. How I used
to wish there had been just one lazy bad one
70 BONNE MAMAN.
like me ! Was it that way when you were there,
bonne maman ?"
The old lady did not answer, but Claire showed
no hesitation in summoning her thoughts from
any pleasanter dallying ground.
" Hein, bonne maman ?"
" What, Claire ?"
" At the convent, was it that way with you ?
Always scolding you because you were not some
one else, always punishing you because you were
what you were ? That was justice ! And then to
tell me I was lazy and could not learn ! It en-
rages me every time I think of it. I am sure I
learned very nearly the whole of the Genie da
Christiaiiisme in punishment. It was killing.
Study! When I was thinking all the time about
something else, straining my ears to listen, just
to see if I could hear the cannon shooting 'way
out there in the distance."
She heard another sigh, and raised her shoul-
ders with a start.
" Pardon, bonne maman ! I forget. You will
see I can cure myself. Oh ! I can do anything I
want except be pious, as they wanted me to be at
the convent. Ha ! it was very easy for the Sis-
ters to say ' Study history !' ' Study geography !'
and stick La Vie des Saints before me. Saints !
It was ' ces diables de I'enfer ' out there shooting
their cannons that I was thinking of! Books ! I
hated books, and pen and ink and paper make
BONNE MAMAN. 71
me ill to this day; but I could embroider; that
didn't prevent listening and thinking. I was only
pious when the mail came in. When I remember
those days, mon Dieu Seigneur ! but we were
frightened then ! Oh, how we loved God and the
saints then ! and how we used to pray to them,
fast, fast, fast as we could, before the letters were
brought around ! Getting a letter meant almost
just the same thing as killing some one in our
family. Those were times — eh, bonne maman ?"
" Bonne maman !"
" But, bonne maman, you don't listen to me,
you don't answer me."
" But, ma petite, I thought you wanted me to
go to sleep?"
"Ah, were you going to sleep? And I woke
you ? What a fool I am !"
" What were you talking about, my daughter ?
I will listen now."
" Ah, no, bonne maman, don't listen to me, I
am so silly; indeed, I am not worth listening to.
Try to go to sleep again. To think that I woke
you, when I wanted you so much to sleep ! I be-
lieve the Sisters at the convent were right. I
shall never have any sense — never; only strength.
Ah, yes ! they told me that often enough, and
tried to shame me by pointing to the good girls
— the good, weak girls. Anyhow," shrugging her
shoulders, "goodness doesn't stand a convent
72 BONNE MAMAN.
and war as well as badness. Ma cliere ! when I
left there you would have said that a battle had
been fought in the dormitory, with the guns loaded
with fevers, and all aimed at the good girls. Only
the fool's-cap wearers escaped. The little ceme-
tery was full, full, full, and the graves so even and
regular, all of one size, like a patchwork quilt
spread out inside the four fences."
" Now, Claire, I shall get up."
" You see, if it had not been for me you would
have been sleeping; and it is so hot and tiresome
Her grandmother sat up in bed.
" Just to give me pleasure, bonne maman, stay
quiet a moment longer."
" To give you jDleasure — ah, well, if it gives you
pleasure !" and she reclined again.
*' Oh, bonne maman, I forget " — sitting up with
" Claire, I was thinking I would like to see my
little green work-table again."
"Ah, that was what you were thinking, eh .-' I
thought it was about my shoulders."
" My little green work-table," the old lady re-
peated to herself.
" Which stood in the window of your room, that
looked on to the gallery, over the orange-trees,
over the levee, into the river — "
" To think I should forget it until to-day ! To
BONNE MAMAN. 73
think I could forget it ! — my little green work-
" But, bonne maman, you have so much to for-
" But that was my ' corbeille de noces,' ordered
from Gessler, in Paris. A corbeille de noces !"
talking more to herself than to the girl. " How
much that means ! I can see the very day, the
very hour, it came. First, my vexation and dis-
appointment ; there were tears in my eyes ; it
was so 'bourgeoise,' a work-table, with nothing
but scissors and threads and needles, instead of
orange flowers and lace and fans and sentiment.
Eh, mon Seigneur ! what ideas I had ! But Aza
was there ! What a devil Aza was ! impertinent,
pushing, and perfectly fearless. I was the only
one who could manage her. They said I had
spoiled her> but she adored me more than she did
God, and was more afraid of displeasing me, too.
She followed me around like a little dog. I never
could put my hand out, so, without touching
Claire nodded attention, as her fingers flew
backward and forward about her work.
"It seems to me," and the soft feeble voice
sounded very plaintive — " it seems to me that all
the bright hopes that used to fly before me, they
fly behind me now as memories."
"Well, of course that is natural," the girl an-
swered cheerfully. " We are two crabs, you and
74 BONNE MAMAN.
I — we walk backward. We couldn't see any-
thing going on before us, par exemple."
" But, Claire, I keep forgetting. I must get up
and finish that embroidery."
"Oh, just one moment, bonne maman — just
one moment more."
" It must be finished and returned this even-
The needle sped faster and faster, and the
soothing words fell more and more disconnect-
"Go and fetch it to me, Claire."
"Yes, bonne maman."
" Indeed I feel quite refreshed."
" Dieu merci !" muttered the girl, and reckless-
ly added, " Vogue la galere !"
The grandmother got very slowly out of the
bed and walked to her rocking-chair,
" It is in the basket there on the mantel-
Claire went for the basket, and slipped the roll
of embroidery she held into it.
" Here it is, bonne maman."
"Ah ! mais, this is not my embroidery."
" Si, it is your embroidery, bonne maman."
" No, my child, you have made a mistake, and
put yours in my basket. Look again, and give
me mine, chere."
Claire turned her head away, that her face
might not discredit her voluble tongue.
BONNE MAMAN. 75
" But I tell you that is your embroidery, bonne
" My embroidery ! Claire, how can you say so ?
Come and convince yourself. See ! this is all
done ; and mine — there was a good piece to do
" A — h ! I see ! Claire, it is you who have fin-
ished it for me."
" Eh, why not ? I had already finished mine,
and I had nothing to do — absolutely nothing.
Was I to sit still and hold my hands — hein ? Oh,
you need not examine the stitches ! I know they
are not so fine, nor so smooth, nor so regular as
yours, but they are good enough for that old
' chouette ' Varon all the same, and — "
The grandmother jumped violently at a sud-
den knock at the door.
" Mais, mon Dieu ! what is that ?"
"A la bonne heure !" whispered Claire to her-
self. " It is Betsie, bonne maman ; I will see what
"Ah, that Betsie! she is so badly raised. She
knocks at the door as if she were a Suisse. Now,
Aza — "
Claire had already left the room, and closed
the door behind her.
" Mamzelle," said Betsy, standing on the step,
"there's that nigger out there come for her
76 BONNE MAMAN.
" Hush, Betsie ! Bonne maman is awake,"
" There's some frolic going on to-night, and
she has set her heart on wearing her new
" But it is not finished."
" I was still sewing on it when bonne maman
" I suspicioned you hadn't done it, and I tried
my best to send her away; but. Lord! such a
contrairy, obstreperous nigger like that !"
" If bonne maman had only slept a little while
" You couldn't baste it up any sort of fashion,
right off, and let her go ?"
" But how can I, Betsie ? Bonne maman — "
" Couldn't you just slip out in the kitchen with
it ? You could say I wanted you to look after
the soup while I go in the street a minute."
" Ha ! you think bonne maman would not go
herself to see to it?"
"That's so ; the madam would come right out
there herself. But that gal is so owdacious and
high-minded; she has been a-jawin' out there for
an hour constant, and I've been a-answering her
just as fair as I could, 'cause I didn't want no
fuss. I never seen anything like her brazenness
all the days of my life. A-driving of white folks
like they was niggers. . . . Couldn't you say I
wanted you to cut a josie for me .'"'
" She would tell me to bring it to her to cut.
Bonne maman is not so easy to fool, Betsie."
The bright sunlight showed lines of weariness
and dejection in the girl's face which the darkness
of the bedchamber had concealed. She leaned
back against the closed doors and clasped her
hands over her head to shelter her eyes.
" Well, I don't know. If she was not such a loud-
mouthed, laz}^, good-for-nothing, trolloping thing.
I wish we could make an end of her !" — turning to
go. " Let me see what I can do with her again."
"Ask her to wait just a Uttle while longer;
perhaps — "
"Wait! Lord bless you! she 'ain't got any
idea of going. Gabriel hisself couldn't drag her
away for the judgment-day withouten that gownd.
I ain't afeard of her going; I'm afeard she'll
holler so loud the madam will hear her."
Claire peeped anxiously through the door be-
fore entering. It was all still. She walked in
on tiptoe. Her grandmother sat with her eyes
closed, the embroidery in her hand.
" Ah, bonne chance !" — her face was sanguine
and gay again — " bonne maman has gone to sleep
She hastily got her gaudy task of sewing, and
followed Betsy across the yard.
The little kitchen basked in the double heat
of sun and furnace, and was overcrowded with
78 BONNE MAMAN,
its assemblage of three. The only chair in the
room was occupied by the colored votary of
fashion, whose monotonous argument rolled on
to an unresponsive audience.
" I was a-telling this lady here," she nodded to
Claire, and pointed to Betsy — " I was a-telling
her I wanted my frock for to-night, for that
moonlight picnic is a-coming off to-night at last.
You 'ain't heerd tell of it? Me and my society
gives it, and all the members is going to go, and
they is bound to go. I laid off yesterday to
come and tell you, but I didn't have time ; and
it appears to me a week's long enough to make
a frock, anyhow ; and if it wasn't, you should
have told me so fair and square before you
ever put a needle into it. The moonlight pic-
nic's done been put off long enough, the Lord
knows ! It did seem to me as how we never would
be able to get it up. Something was always
a-happening against it. Every blessed time we
got all the money we'd look in the box, and, sure
enovigh, there wouldn't be enough yet, and then
it would be put off till another collection. And
if it hadn't been for Sister Johnson's funeral last
night it wouldn't come off now. But it's coming
off this time, sure; 'cause if it had a-come off
when we first started it, Sister Johnson herself
could have gone to it; yes, indeed, as sure as you
are standing there; and if it hadn't been for hold-
ing her funeral last night I don't believe we ever
would have got it up. It was a-long past mid-
night when they come to me for my money, 'cause
I never would have given it to 'em before; and
after they had done got all the money, they said
as how they had better wait for the moon; but
the sisters, they just said, ' No, sir; you give that
there moonlight picnic to-night, moon or no
moon, 'cause it's a heap easier to give a moon-
light picnic without a moon than without the
money.' As I was a-telling this lady here, and
if you had a-told me last week you wasn't a-going
to give me that there frock there for the moon-
light picnic, I could ha' given it to somebody else.
Lord knows there's white people enough to do
sewing, and glad to get it; and you knows your-
self, after I done paid my money last night at
Sister Johnson's funeral for a moonlight picnic,
I'm bound to go, and I'm bound to wear a new
frock if I've got one."
" Lord, child ! don't you jaw so much. Don't
you see the mamzelle's 'most done it ? Who says
you ain't gwine to git it done in time ?"
"• She's bound to git it done in time, if I stays
here a week — she's bound to git it done in time."
It lay under Claire's busy hands on the table
like a heap of fresh glowing vegetables. The
young negress picked up the waist.
"And I hope to gracious you 'ain't made the
josie too tight ! I busts my josies awful. The
color is real stylish, though. You 'ain't got a col-
So BONNE MAMAN.
lar or some sort of neck fixin' you could sell me,
have you? I could pay you cash down for it,"
rummaging in the privacy of her bosom; "you
can see for yourself," untying the knot in a hand-
kerchief. " Lord knows I had trouble enough
getting this money after I had done worked for
it! I had to jaw that white woman what owed it
to me two hours incessant before she had the
grace to pay me. But I was bound to get it for
the moonlight picnic, and I wasn't going to wash
and iron one day longer, neither, for anybody,
and I told her so. Goodness knows, I ain't
obliged to work for her nohow; and she flung it
to me, and told me for God's sake to hush talk-
ing, and clear out and never let her lay eyes on
me no more, and I ain't going to, neither; and if
you've got any sort of collar or neck fixin' you
could sell me cheap, I'd pay you cash down for
" Hein, Betsie?" asked Claire, putting at last
the finishing stitches in her work.
Betsy answered in a quick whisper, " Ef you
have got some sort of little old thing you 'ain't
got any use for, you know the money '11 come in
Claire quit the kitchen, hurried across the little
yard, and went into the room with the same pre-
cautions as before. Her fingers trembled as she
opened the door of the armoire so near the sleep-
ing grandmother, and she pulled from an old
BONNE MAM AN. 8l
pasteboard box the first piece of lace that met
her eye — a large antique collar of Valenciennes,
and like a thief she crept softly away with it.
"Will this do, Betsie?" she asked, entering the
The damage done its marketable value by the
deep yellow color was painfully evident to both.
" How much you want to give for it ?" asked
Betsy of the customer.
"Well, I can't give you more'n I've got. I'm
willing to give you all I have got, and that is the
best I can do. Here's the six bits for the making
of the frock, fair and square as she agreed on,
out of this dollar, and here's two bits besides,
and that's the last cent I've got in this world, as
the Lord hears me speak; and I wouldn't have
had that two bits there if I hadn't been let off
last night from giving it to the collection, 'cause
they didn't know I had it; and they wouldn't 'a'
come to me, nohow, if they hadn't found out I'd
been washing by the week — "
" Six bits outen the dollar and two bits besides.
How much does that make altogether ?" asked
Betsy of Claire.
"And that dollar there was what the white
woman gave me."
" I will take it, Betsie, I will take it," said
Claire, eagerly. " I assure you it is quite suffi-
cient," putting the piece of lace into the bundle
she was making
82 BONNE MAMAN.
" Well, so long !" The negro girl loitered on
the door -sill. "I'm just a-willing to bet, now,
that that moonlight picnic is put off again. I mis-
trusted them brothers when they come a-knock-
ing me up last night in the middle of the night.
I don't believe in moonlight picnics, nohow,
She walked, talking, away.
"Eh, Betsie?" exclaimed Claire. "That is
plenty of money, hein ? But if bonne maman
The old lady did not open her eyes for some
time after Claire returned to the chamber, and
then she resumed, as if in continuation of her
thoughts : " It is curious I never thought of my
little work-table until to-day. My 'corbeille de
noces.' And it was Aza the first who found it
out — Aza." She shook her head meditatively
as she repeated the name. " She was always
pushing herself forward where I was. They
told me I spoiled her ; perhaps so. She was
more like a doll to me than a human being.
Her mother gave her to me, when she was only
a day old, in my arms. It felt so grand to have
a live doll, just as I was beginning to tire of
the others. What plans I made for her ! En-
fin ! it was the will of God. While I was stand-
ing, with tears in my eyes, looking at the needles
and thread, Aza was feeling the green bag under-
neath. Do you remember the green bag, Claire ?"
BONNE MAMAN. 83
" Do I remember it, bonne maman? But sure-
" She gave the drawer one pull, and, voila ! it
was all before me."
The grandmother's bluish hands, with their
dark, knotted, angry veins, rubbed nervously up
and down the arms of her chair, and she made
frequent pauses by leaning back and closing her
eyes, breathing heavily.
" Ma foi, if Aza had waited, she would not
have had to thank me for her freedom. ' Ma
fille,' I used to tell her, ' it is not only the dif-
ference in our skin, but the difference in our
nature.' She would have died for me — ah, yes !
— but she could not be good for me. Claire, I
wish I could see my little work-table again."
Her voice, usually so trained, was surprisingly
plaintive to-day. " You see, so much would come
back to me if I could see my little table. I
think sometimes, mon enfant, that the loss of our
souvenirs is the worst loss of all for us women.
^Vith them we never forget. When one is old,
things get so far away. When we are young, we
are like dogs : v/e hide away out of our provision
of the present, for the future, scraps of ribbon,
lace, or a glove — no matter what — and it is very
hard when, old and hungry, we come to the hid-
ing-place and find them all gone. Of course it is
all sentiment; but we women, going through so
much, we like to remember when everything hap-
84 BONNE MAMAN.
pened for the first time — one's first copy-book,
one's first communion, one's first ball, and when
one gets married, and one's first child. Ah, mon
Dieu ! one can get reconciled to changes in life,
but one cannot get reconciled to changes in one's
self. Even when our souvenirs are crumbling to
dust they are fresher than we women are at the
end. Mon enfant, I advise you, give up every-
thing in life except your souvenirs; keep them
for your sentiments to gnaw on, as one might say,
when you get old."
" Eh, grand'mere, souvenirs of what ? Of the
war? of the convent? Merci ! I am in no dan-
ger of forgetting them. Every piece of bread I
eat reminds me how hungry I used to be there,
The grandmother had taken another leave of
absence of mind, and Claire, having now no ul-
terior motive for loquacity, was silent also.
The closed eyes, however, were not, had not
been, sleeping ; on the contrary, under their pallid
lids they were looking with tense vision, in vague
fear of an indeterminate something slowly evolv-
ing out of misty uncertainty into a fatal convic-
That the conviction had not come to her before
was owing to the coercive strength of an inflexible
will ; that it came to her to-day with the irrefutable
accumulated evidence hitherto suppressed or ig-
nored, did not astonish, only awed, her. Women
BONNE MAMAN. 85
live SO close to nature, they are guided from initia-
tion to initiation in life by signals and warnings
— divine, they call them — which they, and only
they, can see. There can be no question with
them of rebellion, no refusing of the credentials
of the angels of the twilight who still knock at
their doors, the bearers of God's commands, mes-
sengers of life or messengers of death.
She was failing — failing in physical, failing in
mental, strength. The child Claire was manag-
ing her, doing her work for her surreptitiously.
It was time for her to prepare for the future; she
would do it, but why would the past obtrude upon
her, turning its corpse lights into every nook and
cranny of her memory? Regrets were useless;
now that death was so near, but why would they
come, sowing discord, corroding with tardy in-
decision the supreme decisions of her life, ar-
raigning, from the vantage-ground of the present,
cherished feats of spent heroism, testing the
metal of her approaching martyr's crown ?
"This, then, was to be the end of a life conduct-
ed on principles drawn from heroic inspirations of
other times. The principles were the same, but
human nature had changed since women's hearts
were strong enough not to break over bullet
wounds, sabre cuts, and horse-hoof mutilations,
when women's hands were large enough to grasp
and hold the man-abandoned tiller of the house-
hold. It had all gone wrong." The old lady
86 BONNE MAMAN.
spread her handkerchief over her eyes. The
closed Hds could not shut in all the tears. " Yes,
it had all gone wrong somehow. The battle
turned out a defeat, not a victory ; the son came
back on his shield, not with it." And she ? She
might perhaps have done better. Death would
now have been easier for her if the times and she
had been different in the past. Had it not been
for overflows and disasters and disappointments,
for failure of crops and epidemics of disease, for
the feeding of so many useless and infirm depend-
ents, she too might have been a successful plan-
tation manager. As it was, when her commission-
merchant came to her with a statement, she
frankly and firmly acknowledged that she could
not rightfully claim an acre of her possessions.
They came in a royal grant ; they went in a royal
cause. There were law quibbles ; but was she
one to lose a creed to grovel for coppers ? She
might have gone to France, as it was supposed
she had done ; and desert the country for which
her only son had died ? But after the war she
was less than ever a Frenchwoman, more than
ever an American. At bay, every nerve tingling
with haughty defiance at the taunts and jeers of
despising conquerors, every heart-throb beating
accusations of womanly weakness and grief, what
more effective answer to the challengers of her
blood and country, what nobler one to herself,
than bravely to assume the penalty she had
BONNE MAMAN. 87
dared ? As the men had fought, let the women
suffer against overpowering odds. So she left
the beautiful country, her plantation, her home,
her souvenirs of youth and happiness, and came
to the detested city, sought out this little cabin
left vacant by the death of an old slave, and with
Claire commenced that life to which she had con-
vinced herself she was committed by fate and by
principle. It was an extreme of resolution to
meet an extreme of disaster. Ameliorations of
her lot were intolerable even in thought. She
had made her destitution complete by renouncing
even friends, relations, social amenities, with her
Thus she had lived her retaliation against fate
— there was no doubt about that now — thorough-
ly, eifectively, and death was upon her. But
Claire? The handkerchief could not hide the
convulsive movement of her bosom as she rec-
ognized now the short range of heroic vision.
The figure of her pale, cheerful, brave, toiling
granddaughter came before her with the unearthly
vividness of those visions which in stormy nights
bring women their dead. The agony she had
felt in abandoning her children to the isolation
and ugliness of the tomb resuscitated poignantly
at the abandonment of this her last child to life.
What tomb could be lonelier or uglier than
this little cabin would be to Claire when she, the
grandmother, was dead ?
88 BONNE MAMAN.
Would the patriotic death of the girl's father,
would the martyrdom of her mother, would a
proud disdain of law quibbles, would the renun-
ciation of friends and the defiance of enemies,
alleviate her affliction then, or solace her in her
youthful, unaided life-struggle,in those conditions
for which ancestral glories, refinements, and lux-
uries had but poorly equipped her ? Could, in
fact, their enemies have prepared an extremity of
suffering beyond that to which Claire was pre-
destined by her own grandmother ?
The sun went down on the little back street
earlier than elsewhere on account of the huge old
square house blocking up the west. The win-
dows and doors unclosed as its rays withdrew,
and the hidden community finished the day's
task in the publicity of the front steps, until twi-
light released them to indulge in the relaxation
of neighborly gossip — all except the corner cot-
tage, which maintained its distrustful reserve even
through the gentle, winning shades of evening.
When others went in front to greet each other
with the commonplaces of human interdepend-
ence, Claire and her grandmother went back
into the contracted area between the house and
kitchen, and expended their tendernesses on the
mendicant groups of potted plants that formed
their garden. The old lady walked this even-
ing from shrub to shrub, laying her gentle, with-
BONNE MAMAN. 89
ered hands with maternal expertness amid the
gieen leaves, straightening distorted branches, and
searching out diseased spots. Her own heart felt
bruised and sore from suppressed emotion, and
craved the faint fragrance, which, it seemed to her,
her plants had never yielded so willingly or so
abundantly. Did they understand all, and sym-
pathize with her ? The tears came into her eyes
again, but Claire had gone to take the embroidery
home, so there was no need to hide them.
The brilliant sunset sky burned overhead in
deep ingulfing masses, reaching clown to the
pointed roof of the cottage — the despised roof
whose shelter she had sought as the deepest in-
sult she could inflict upon the world. The old,
worn, menial house ! it also looked kindly, pro-
tectingly, at her, as if it also had penetrated her
secret — the last secret of her life. An old, old
sentiment thrilled in her heart as she looked
through her tears at it for the first time as at a
home. " Ah, mon Dieu," she thought, " every-
thing seems to know and feel for me, just as it
used to know and feel when I carried other se-
crets in my breast !" The youthful, timid falter-
ing came over her once more, the virgin shudder
before unknown mysteries, the same old girlish
need of help and encouragement. But she over-
came the expression of her face as she heard the
key turn in the lock of the little back gate behind
the cistern. Claire entered boisterously, followed
90 BONNE MAMAN.
by Betsy with a bundle. She tossed off her hat
with its ugly veil of blue barege.
" Oh, bonne maman ! Such a delicious walk !
If I only had embroidery to take home every
evening ! And the old ' Varon ' could not have
been more amiable. Ah, it's so good to go out
on the street !"
She stretched her arms over her head, tighten-
ing the faded waist around her swelling breast as
she looked up in the brilliant sunset sky above.
" Mon Dieu ! but it's all beautiful. I wish I
could walk up there in all that pink and blue and
gold ; walk deeper and deeper in it, until it came
up all around and over me !"
She drew a long, quivering breath.
" Do you smell the night jasmine, bonne ma-
man ? I do not know how it is with you, but it
is as if it came thousands and thousands of miles
just to me and no one else, and it makes me feel
faint with its sweetness."
She threw her arms around her grandmother
and embraced her impulsively.
"You see, it is so good to go on the street,
bonne maman. It makes one feel so gay, so
fresh, so strong. Ah, you ought to go some-
times with me, just to see all the people. How
many people there must be in the world ! And I
know only three — you, Betsie, and old Varon.
But I am glad they are there all the same, even if
I do not know them."
A loud, coarse, passionate waltz seemed to fall
in rhythmic links over the glass-protected brick
wall. She released her grandmother and danced
round and round, as if caught in its melodious
wheels, until it left her panting and glowing.
" When I hear music like that, bonne maman,
it is as if my blood would come out of my veins
and dance right there before me. Sometimes in
the night I hear it ; I think at first I'm dreaming,
but then I wake and listen to it until I stop my
ears and hold myself still, for, oh, bonne maman !
I want so much to get up and follow it, out, out,
wherever it is, until I come to the place where
it begins fresh and sweet and clear from the
piano, and then dance, dance, dance, until I can-
not dance one step more !"
The words fell in unguarded fervor, and her
eyes began to burn with feverish brightness. Bet-
sy plucked at her dress.
" Mamzelle !"
" Sometimes I wonder whether it is in the music
or in me — "
" Mamzelle ! Mamzelle !"
" Whether it is in me alone or in everybody — "
" Mamzelle Claire, just one word !"
" Decidedly that Betsie is very badly raised,"
remarked bonne maman, in an undertone.
" When I smell the night jasmine I feel it a
little, and when I look up in the sky like a while
ago ; but it's never so strong as when I hear mu-
sic. Oh, bonne maman, can't you give me some-
thing to make me stop feeling this way — to make
that music let me alone ?"
" Mamzelle !" — the negro excitedly placed her
hand on Claire's arm to enforce attention.
" If Aza could see that !" The old lady turned
away in disgust.
" Mamzelle ! I can't stand by and see you
dancing and singing to that music you hear over
there, and hear you talk about getting up in the
night and following it." The old black woman's
voice trembled, and her fingers tightened convul-
sively over the slim white arm. " I don't tell
the madam, 'cause it's no use bothering her ; but,
mamzelle, as sure as God hears me now, them
niggers over there don't play no music excepting
for devils to dance by, and that piano don't talk
nothing fittin' a young white lady to listen to."
" Eh ? What do you mean ?"
" Mamzelle — "
" Does that hurt the music who plays it ? Do
you think I want to dance to it, to listen to it ?"
She pushed Betsy's hand off, with her fingers
grown clammy ; her cheeks were crimson, and her
lips blushed at the strange maturity of expression
so new to them.
" Did I say I was going to get up at night and
follow it .■* Did I say I was going on the street
every evening ? Did I say I would rush up to the
people to feel them clasp my hands only once?
I only" — and her voice came in a sob — "I only
said I wanted to."
The music came now lower and sweeter. She
stopped her ears. " There ! that is what I must
do — eh .'' Why doesn't it stop talking to me ?"
"But, mamzelle, they is — ''
" It doesn't cost anything," she interrupted,
furiously — " it doesn't cost anything to listen to
music, to know people. I don't have to work for
it, like bread and meat ; and, grand Dieu, how
much better it is !''
Two tears rolled from her hot eyes ; she paused
in startled awe and carried her hands up to
" Claire ! Claire Blanche ! you had better come
" Yes, bonne maman,"
Outside, in the street, the steps filled up with
white - sacqued women. The men tilted their
chairs back against the trees and the walls of
their houses and smoked their cigarettes. The
children — and this street could have supplied a
city with children — raced from corner to corner
to dance out the sample tunes of passing organ-
grinders. The conversation flowed in an easy
murmuring tide from group to group, soared over
every now and then by a dominant cry in pursuit
of some refractory fugitive.
" You Var — iste !"
" A — na— to — le !"
" Ga cette Marie Ik bas !"
"Jo — seph — ine!"
" Josephine, to maman 'peler toi !"
" 'Polite ! tu veux pas finir ?"
The lamplighter threaded his way among the
chairs, scoring off a dim record of his passage up
among the green leaves of the trees. As the
darkness settled over the bushy tops of the or-
ange hedge, blotting the vague outlines of the
screened house, prodigal fragments of merriment
seemed to be thrown in scornful carelessness
down the street — dance music with its impetuous
accelerations, overtures of song and chorus, break-
ing off in loud laughter and the tread of dancing
" They are gay over there this evening."
" When one is like that — "
The women united their heads for female com-
ment; but the men, their cigarettes spangling the
gloom, listened in silence, casting secret, wistful
glances in the direction of the occult merry-
" They won't sleep much over there to-night,"
said one, pointing to the corner cottage.
" As much as any Saturday night," was an-
swered, with a shrug.
It was long before day when Betsy, with mi-
nute particularity, closed the little gate behind
her, and started out with her stick in her hand
and her sack over her shoulder. She belonged
to that division of humanity who seek their daily
food in the daily refuse of others. She was a rag-
picker — a gleaner in the nocturnal fields of a
great city. Her harvests were not beautiful nor
savory ; but compensations in the shape of free-
dom from competition, weather influences, and a
stable market are not to be despised, particularly
by one for whom the darkness has no terrors, the
loneliness no trepidations. She had contracted
a stoop in her shoulders from so much bending
over barrels and buckets and tubs, and peering
through dim light into the slimy bottoms of mud-
dy gutters, so that her face seldom met the glance
of the passing world, in whose litter it was or-
dained she should seek her food ; but when she
did look up, there was seen no reflection of cor-
ruption or filth in her small clear black eyes ; no
grovelling purposes conceived in grovelling pur-
suits. Although dressed in a picked-up, motley
livery, thrown off from the shoulders, perhaps, of
vice, sin, or crime, the audible thought which fell
mechanically from her lips as she plied her trade
carried the conviction that her harlequinade was
one of costume only. The old creature's twilight
meanderings had taught her much of life, and
while she knew little of the gifts of civilization,
she had not many of its banes to find out, hav-
ing had more experience with vice than with
virtue, which with purity and goodness dwelt a
96 BONNE MAMAN.
long way back in her nnemory, or a long way for-
ward in Biblical promise.
The repertoire of her monologues was not large
or varied ; wherever they ended, they generally
began with an early morning like this, "nigh on
to three years ago," when, going forth to pick
rags, she found a mistress, and in lieu of daily
bread gained daily bondage. She was turning
over the contents of a very destitute box indeed
that morning when a gate behind her suddenly
opened, and a young white girl appeared.
" A young white girl in this here quadroon fau-
bourg ! My Lord ! what does this mean ?" her
cultivated suspicions prompted her to exclaim.
But the young girl, frankly, in the confidence
of innocent childhood, said, with a polite propi-
tiating smile, in stiff, unpractised English :
" I hear you every morning ; I attended for
you this morning; I want that you direct me the
way of the market."
" You git up this time o' day to ask me the
way to the market ?"
" Yes, for my grandmother yet sleeps. I wish
to go there before she wakes herself."
" Honey, 'ain't you got nobody to go for you ?"
" No, nobody now, for — "
" And what could a nigger do ?" muttered Betsy,
in self-extenuation — " more inspecially a Baptist,
a fresh-water Baptist and a cold-water Baptist,
and a hanger-on of the Cross?"
It was the chance that Hnks together husband
and wife, that determines the fall of a dynasty,
or directs the feet of the outcast to a loving
Circumstances never permitted the childish ap-
peal for assistance to cease, and an unselfish, ten-
der heart never permitted it to meet with disap-
pointment. It was three years now since that
morning, but the sun, measuring their horizon
hour by hour, had never shown on a moment of
distrust in either to their simple confidence, or
of disloyalty to the pious obligation of serving,
by fair means or foul, the proud old lady glory-
ing in her lofty ideas of self-support.
" I can see the end," Betsy told herself, fishing
around in a pestiferous heap, " but I can't see
after the end. The old madam's a-failing ; I seen
she was a-failing the first day I laid eyes on her ;
and the young mamzelle is a-growing-and a-ripen-
ing and beginning to notice things woman-like.
The old madam, she don't suspicion nothing, nor
the young mamzelle neither. The end's a-com-
ing, and it's bound to come. The laughing and
the singing and the working all day and half the
night ain't a-going to put it off, neither; and it's
a crucifying world, anyhow."
The old lady that morning was also trying to
look beyond the end, and was seeing Claire grow-
ing up instead of remaining forever a child —
growing up in spite of tragedy, starvation, impris-
98 BONNE MAMAN.
onment, inta beauty, gayety, joyousness ; craving
sympathy, companionship, mental food ; throwing
out woman tendrils in all directions ; cut off by
short-sighted precautions from friends, from re-
lations, even from certification of her own iden-
tity; alone, literally alone, but for the homely
friend picked up out of the street. She had sent
Claire to church, for the first time in her life, by
herself that morning in order to carry out the
one project that had come to her in her agony.
She called Betsy to the side of her rocking-chair.
" Betsie, you approach me."
Her English, like most of her youthful posses-
sions, was hers yet only by an effort of memory.
She spoke very slowly, reconnoitring for equiva-
lents for her agitated French thoughts.
" Betsie, it must we all die."
" Lord ! old miss."
"Betsie, it* must you die, it must me die, but
more maybe me than you."
" Betsie, when it comes we die, we look for
friends — hein ?"
" I reckon so, old miss."
" Betsie, when it comes I die, me, I look for
friends, what see I ? Mademoiselle Claire and
you. You and Claire, nobody more — eh, Bet-
" Yes, ma'am."
" Betsie, all this time I have been fool ; but I
be fool no more. I not work for myself ; no,
Claire, she work for me ; you, you \vork for me ;
but me, I not work for myself. Oh ! I think so, I
work for myself, but no. Now, I know, me. jNIy
eyes, they have been shut, but now they see
There were tears of mortification in the proud
old ej^es, whose first coquettish scintillations lay
so deep buried under the grief-drifts of a lifetime.
" Since a long time I work not. Claire Blanche,
she make my ' broderie ' for me."
" Please, old miss, don't you go and get mad
with the mamzelle for that !"
" Me, I do nothing more ; for why ? I die.
Since two years I die. I do not know it before ;
but I know it now, well, well. Betsie, you come
close, close." The negress could not sit ; stand-
ing, her face was too high up. She knelt down
by the chair.
" Betsie, I very sick ; I die to-day or to-morrow."
" Not so bad as that, old miss."
" To-day, to-morrow, or soon. 1 know not when,
" Can't you take something, old miss ?"
" No, Betsie. I do not need medicaments ; it
is death what I need. Die, Betsie, that is some-
thing terrible ; no, not for the agonizing, but for
the others. It lasts long sometimes — hein,Betsie?"
" God knows, ma'am."
" Betsie, when it comes I die, you stand here,
100 BONNE MAMAN.
SO, close ; Claire, she stand there " — pointing to
the next room. "You here, she there; then she
Her voice, obedient to the strong will, was
clear, but at times a weakening tone from the
heart marred its firmness, and turned the com-
mand into a petition.
" I understand, old miss."
" Betsie, in my life I have seen much die. It
did me nothing. For why ? I was happy. I
have hold the hand ; I have made the prayer.
But I had much family still. Betsie, if it comes I
die, like you and me we have seen some die —
Betsie, ma bonne femme Betsie, you will not let
ma petite Claire see. Betsie, swear me that. My
good God ! Betsie, you think she ever laugh like
last night when she see me, her bonne maman,
die ? Betsie, swear me that."
"I swear you that on the Bible, old miss."
"Betsie, you will say her nothing — nothing.
God, He will tell her — oh, He will tell her in
time. You say I strong ; you say I well — hein,
" Yes, ma'am."
" That is all — that is all for the moment."
" There's something else, old miss, you've done
forgot," began the negro woman, still on her
knees, her short, thick eyelashes crystallized with
tears, a surpassing pleading in her voice. " Old
miss, ain't you gwine to send for none of your
BONNE MAMAN. loi
folks — none of your friends ? Old miss, you heerd
that child out there last night just a-yearning for
some folks and friends. Old miss, let me go out
and find 'em for you. I will search this town
through from end to end, but I'll find 'em for
you, old miss. For God's sake, old miss, don't
leave that child here with only one poor old nig-
ger for her friend! Old miss" — putting her
eager lips close to the bleached, withered ear —
" old miss, they is all out there ; the earth is full
of friends, old miss. Just let me go for 'em."
The bonne maman reached out her hand and
laid it on Betsy's head -handkerchief. "You
have reason, Betsie — you have more reason than
me. You are one good woman, and I ask the
good God to bless you. For me and for my
grandchild. I do not know to talk it, Betsie,
but " — she drew the black face to her and
pressed her lips on the forehead — " that is what
I would say, Betsie."
" Old miss, you will send for your folks ?"
"Yes, Betsie, to-morrow. Betsie," she called
again, as the woman was leaving the room, " you
will tell Mademoiselle Claire nothing — nothing;
it will come to her soon enough — eh ?"
" 'Fore God in heaven I promise you that, old
But she was never strong enough to send the
summons ; the angel had delayed too long on the
road with his warning.
102 BONNE MAMAN,
The first kisses of the spring sun bring out the
orange blossoms, and the first movements of the
spring breeze loosen them with gentle frolickings
from their stems, to carry the sweet fragrant be-
trayal of their wantonness round to all the open
windows of the city. The children, with their
quick divinations, have the news of the blossom-
ing betimes, and they muster in full force on the
banquettes under the trees, intrepidly braving for
the nonce the insulting volleys of their ambushed
foes. Before the dust of the street could pollute
the flowers in their abasement, before the sun
had time to wither their unsheltered freshness,
deft little black, brown, and yellow fingers had
heaped them in high-drav/n skirts, old hats, scraps
of pottery, rag, or paper, to garner them, not on
their favorite steps, but in a cache selected for
temporary use. For on the silent green doors
they loved Death had affixed his standard, and
the long black crape floating with majestic so-
lemnity in the sweet air frightened them away.
The little cabin, always so dark, so quiet, so
unobtrusive, thrilled the early openers of the win-
dows about with the unexpected sign of its stig-
mata. Sleep had lulled them all into uncon-
scious unhelpfulness, and daylight wakened them
to accusing repentance.
" La pauvre vieille madame 1^-ye, morte pen-
dant la nuit."
" Ah, misericorde !"
BONNE MAMAN. 103
"Si je I'avais su."
It was Sunday, the church bells were calling
them all to mass (all except one — one who they
remembered had always gone to the earliest
mass), slipping along the street masked in veils.
It is an old-fashioned Creole city, with a pompous
funereal etiquette, where no dispensation is sought
or given for the visit commanded by the crape
scarf. Death himself had unlatched the reserved
green doors, and was host to-day. And where
Death receives, the house is free to all the " blan-
chisseuse en fin," the " coiffeuse," the " garde
malade," the little hunchback who kept the
"rabais," the passers-by to and from mass, the
market-woman with her basket, the paper-boy
with his papers — all entered the little chamber, if
but for a moment, to say a little prayer, or bow in
respect to the conqueror and the conquered. The
old aristocrat lay in her cofifin in the bare, un-
furnished room, where she had lived with her
poverty, her pride, and her griefs, looking up
through her mutilations of age and infirmity,
through her wrinkles, discolorations, and the stony
glaze of death, with the patient resignation of a
marble statue looking up through the turbidities
of a sluggish stream, while the eyes she had so
carefully shunned in life gazed their fill of her.
The hour of noon approached, the siesta hour
of the neighborhood.
104 BONNE MAMAN.
A Iarge,heavy-limbed woman dressed with showy
elegance moved slowly down the street, and stop-
ped for a moment before the door, while her eyes
with languid curiosity measured the length and
texture of the black scarf. Past middle age, but
not past the luxuriant maturity of her prime, she
held her head insolently back, challenging and
defying observation, proclaiming and glorying in
a pampered self-consciousness. From under the
black lace of her veil jewels glistened on the
soft, barbaric brown skin. Pleasure seemed to
have sensualized features and form into danger-
ous alluring harmony, and panoplied her mind
against thought. Her sleepy, large eyes rested
on the door while she paused, hesitating between
the instinctive craving of morbid curiosity and
half- dormant reminiscences of recent gratifica-
tions ; then, without glancing at the paper flutter-
ing from the door, she entered the room. She
bent over the cofhn with its emaciated, pitiful
human contents, and her eyes dilated with the
" White !" she whispered, in surprise, with a con-
temptuous smile on her voluptuous lips. What ex-
quisite flattery to her own rich, exuberant, sumpt-
uous flesh ! What triumph for the fierce, bold
blood thrilling and leaping in her veins ! She
raised herself with complacent comeliness, and
looked again before leaving.
" Mais ! I never noticed it before. It is very
BONNE MAMAN. 105
strange. Mais grand Dieu !" she screamed, in
reckless self-abandonment. " It is she ! I know
it is she !" She remembered the paper at the
door, and tore it off and read it. " I tell you,"
she screamed again to the impassive watcher,
Betsy — " I tell you it is she ! Mamzelle Nenaine ?
Mamzelle Nenaine ?" she interrogated, in an ago-
nized whisper, throwing herself on her knees by
the coffin. " Is it you } Oh ! is it you .'" She
looked around fiercely and wildly. " But what does
it all mean ? What can it all mean ? Can't you
answer me ?" she demanded, in English, of Betsy.
"Are you a fool ? How did this lady come here ?
Who did it ? I want to know who dared do it ?"
Betsy had risen respectfully. She was trying,
with God's help and the old lady's cold, silent
presence, to see now beyond the end. In con-
formity with her ideas of responsibility to the
dead and to the living, she had put off her rags
and dirt, and — the last sacrifice of her unselfish
heart — had put on a new black dress, white neck-
erchief, and "tignon" — her own grave-clothes,
bought with cold and starvation, and guarded re-
ligiously through years of vagabondage for her
" Who are you ? What are you doing here ?"
demanded the imperious visitor.
" Me, ma'am ? I am the madam's servant."
" You lie ! You know you lie ! The madam
never owned a servant like you."
I06 BONNE MAMAN.
" I never said the madam owned me ; I said I
was her servant ; she hired me."
It looked as if the visitor could find no ade-
quate expression for the passion that raged in
her. She shook her fist at the bare cold walls,
she stamped on the rough, uncovered floor, she
caught sight of the jewels on her arms, and hurled
the massive bracelets away from her, she tore
open her dress to ease her swelling throat, and
her bosom panted violently under crushed garni-
tures of soft white lace. She fell down by the
coffin again, and, bursting into tears, hid her face
in the darned, worn, white " blouse volante "
shroud, moaning, with long, wailing cries, " Mam-
zelle Nenaine ! Mamzelle Nenaine !"
"Where are her friends?"
" Please, ma'am, she 'ain't got no friends, ex-
cepting the apothecary gentleman at the corner.
He was mighty good and kind ; he come when I
went for him, and he stayed all night."
" But, my God ! where are her relations ?"
" I 'ain't never heerd of any relations besides
the mamzelle — Mamzelle Claire."
"Mademoiselle Claire! Claire Blanche .^ Mon-
sieur Edgar's baby ?"
She was silent again, as if unable to compre-
" And God allowed this ! How long have they
been living here — here in this cabin ?"
" I don't know, ma'am ; it's nigh on to three
BONNE MAMAN. 107
years sence I've been with them, and they've
been here all that time."
The stranger looked up to heaven with a mut-
tered blasphemous adjuration.
Betsy had been gazing with her keen eyes as
if into a murky depth ; then a cloud seemed to
have passed away from the sun, for the room
was a little lighter. " I see you now," she said,
in a hoarse whisper. "I didn't see you before,
the room was so dark." Throwing away all ef-
fort at self-restraint, raising her whisper into a
command : " Clear out from this room ! How dare
you show your face here ! Clear out, I tell you,
" Ha !" exclaimed the woman. The exclama-
tion had a dangerous intonation, a menace of
one fearless and unscrupulous.
" Go out of that door, I tell you !" Betsy in-
creased her distinctness and determination.
" Don't you dare look at the face of my madam !
Don't you dare touch her again !"
" Your madam ! Your madam !"
The stranger cursed her with a French im-
precation. "Don't you dare call her your madam !
She was my madam ! I was her Aza ! I belonged
to her. I was given to her before I was a day
old. I slept by the side of her bed ; she carried
me around in her little arms like a doll; she raised
me like her child ; she was my godmother ; she
set me free. I loved her, I worshipped her. O
I03 BONNE MAMAN.
God, how I worshipped her ! Mamzelle Nenaine,
you know it is true ! Mamzelle Ne'naine, if you
could speak to Aza once more ! Just one word ! —
just one word !"
A torrent of tears choked her voice. Betsy
recoiled in horror.
" Your madam ! Your — My God in heaven !
And she lay a- dying here, and the mamzelle
a-starving, and you her servant, what belonged
to her, in that house over there ! You ! a-scan-
dalizing, a-rioting, a-frolicking, a-flaunting your-
self in carriages, you and your gals, right past
this house ! a-carrying on 3'our devilment right
out there, and your mistress a-slaving and a-starv-
ing ! You! You nigger!" The old woman's
crooked back straightened until she could look
the quadroon straight in the eye.
" You — you are not that — "
" Yes, I am ! Yes, I am that same dirty, stink-
ing old rag-picker what did scrubbing for you.
Not for me, mind you ! but to buy medicine for
the poor old madam there ; a-lowering myself for
her, a-dying and starving and freezing, while you
was throwing away in the streets the money you
stole out of the pockets of them white men !"
" Hush ! Oh, for God's sake, don't talk so loud!"
" And last night, when the end come — when
the end come, I tell you — with the piano music
a-pounding up the street, and the hollering and
the laughing, and the poor mamzelle — "
"Mademoiselle Claire Blanche?" repeated the
Betsy misunderstood her meaning.
" The last thing before the madam there died,
when your music and your devilment was going
on the loudest, I told her — I told her I v/ould
look after the mamzelle the same as if I were her
boughten slave ; and I'm going to do it. And I
tell you, nigger, standing there before me in all
your brazenness and finery and sinfulness, before
you so much as speak to that child, before you so
much as touch the tip end of her gown, you will
have to trample the life out of me under your
The inspired figure of the black woman came
nearer and nearer, advancing between Aza and
the coffin, pointing to the door. The quadroon
tried to glare back her speechless rage ; but the
arraignment was too crushing, the action too full
of meaning. She dropped her eyes in shame.
Ashamed before whom ? — a common rag-picker
from the streets ! How dared she steal the lan-
guage and sentiments of the dead one in the
coffin, and talk to her like a mistress ? — her, the
insubordinate, irreprovable one ! With a charac-
teristic gesture she threw her head back again ;
but in Betsy's fine, determined face, in the holy
passion of her voice, in her firm, commanding eye,
she recognized, not the stolen or borrowed prin-
ciples of a white lady, but the innate virtue of all
no BONNE MAMAN.
good women. She measured herself not with her
dead mistress, but with Bgtsy, and for the first
time in her wild, daring, passionate life felt the
humiliation of repentance. Following the direc-
tion of the imperious black finger she left the
The day wore on to the hour before the funeral.
Visits had ceased, and the silence of prayer was
in the room about the old lady. Betsy, sitting at
the head of the coffin, fanning unweariedly, heard
in the other room, where Claire was, the sound of
footsteps, the murmuring of voices, and her name
called with a moaning cry ; or she fancied she
heard it, for the solemnity and oppression of
death had benumbed her faculties, and she felt
uncertain of everything. At last, to end the
dream-like confusion, she went to see, and left
the old lady, for the first time that day, as much
alone as if she were already in her grave.
The children — a hushed, awed band crouching
on the steps outside around a white tissue-paper
bundle, had been peeping, and waiting long for
this opportunity. It came now, to paralyze them
with faintness and fear. At first they could make
no impression on the green door v/ith their trem-
bling fingers, all holding their breath, and work-
ing at it at once. Then it slowly yielded, opening
to them the darkened chamber within. They all
stood up to follow, as they had promised one
another, but when the door swung to again they
BONNE MAM AN. m
were still in their places outside. All but one —
the bundle-bearer, an appalled, scrawny, ragged,
wild little creature with black, unkempt head and
yellow skin, naked arms, shivering, bare legs, and
feet clinging to the floor; with white teeth clinched,
and fear-distended eyes looking anywhere but at
that undefined object in the centre of the room.
It took an eternity to cross the space to it, and
yet the eternity ended too soon, it ended too soon.
A barrier stopped her. Involuntarily she looked
down. The locked teeth prevented the scream,
but in the tense grip of her fingers the white
tissue-paper gave way, and for the second time
that day the orange-blossoms fell, but this time
to break with eloquent fragrance the damp still-
ness of death, enshrouding the rigid form in their
loveliness, and crowning with a virgin anadem the
earth-worn face looking heavenward through its
last human experience — of love, not hate. The
door slammed behind the fleeing messenger, still
grasping her fragments of paper, and the children
sped away again to their distant corner of obser-
Betsy was not mistaken ; the bedchamber was
filled with people — ladies and gentlemen whisper-
ing and moving around, calling Claire by name,
laying caressing hands on her head and shoul-
ders. The girl only crouched lower by the side
of the bed, and pressed her closed eyes tighter
112 BONNE MAMAN.
against the pillow taken from under bonne ma-
man's head, and moaned, " Ah, Betsie ! Betsie !"
Betsy looked around in amazement.
" If you please to walk into the next room — "
she began ; but seeing that they persisted in try-
ing to arouse Claire, she pushed through them,
and placing herself in front of the girl, said, quer-
ulously, "Let the mamzelle alone ; she's not harm-
ing any one ; what do you want to bother her for ?"
She could not understand their explanations
at first, being dull and dazed with fatigue and
But when she did the joy in her heart weak-
ened her. She bent over and steadied her trem-
bling hand on Claire's head. " Child, they is all
your kin ; done found you out. Honey, they
wants to know you. Honey, they wants to love
But the head only went deeper into the pillow.
" You must excuse her," she said, looking
around, anxious to excuse the offence. " You
must really excuse her; she don't know, herself,
what she's doing. She 'ain't lifted her head from
that pillow sence last night."
After a pause of decorous silence, the ladies
and gentlemen, as they will do at funerals, recom-
menced their whispering. It was excusable this
time, the first gathering of a family which had
been separated by the whirlwind of revolution a
decade ago. There was much to talk over and
BONNE MAMAN. 113
a long roll of the dead to call ; but chiefly there
was to recount to one another, each version char-
acter-tinged, their utter dismay at the intelligence
brought them by Aza that day. How like a fiery
cross she had carried the tale around from one
household to the other, and had rallied them
once again around the old standard of family
pride and family love. With what passionate elo-
quence had she told them of the death of bonne
maman — of bonne maman whom they had sup-
posed living at ease in France ! Dead ! here ! a
wretched, forsaken exile in their own city. Dead!
in the very reach of their hand, in the sound of
their voice. Dead ! without a friend ! she, whom
living, not so very long ago after all, they had
surrounded, a crowd of eager, obsequious court-
iers. They spoke of the old plantation days, with
its magnificent, luxurious, thoughtless hospitality;
of the ancient, aristocratic distinction of a name
which had been a knightly pledge in two coun-
tries; and they looked at the little room with its
inexorable revelations. In the exaltation of quick-
ening emotion they forgot to whisper. Vying in
their efforts to atone for the present, they brought
from their memory such glorious tributes that the
old lady in her pine coffin appeared clad in gar-
ments bright enough then and there for a bodily
ascension to heaven. Pride and reserve were
sacrificed, painful secrets hinted at in this holy
revival that all might be said, now that it was
114 BONNE MAMAN,
too late for anything to be done ; until it became
evident, as evident as the misery surrounding
them, that in their own persons or the persons of
dead parents they were bonded by unpaid dues
of fealty and obligation to their deceased kins-
woman, or, failing her, to the shrinking, cowering,
fair-haired girl kneeling by the bed.
A quadroon woman in the corner, dressed in
the old servile costume, listened in bitter weep-
ing. At the grating sound of wheels outside she
arose and crossed the room. Calling them by
name, Master this and Mistress that, she pointed
to Betsy, and in hurried, broken tones related the
simple facts of her devoted service to those who
owned her only by virtue of their dependence,
who could pay her only with their thanks. In a
wild, penitent way she was adding more, but Betsy,
listening to one and to the other, tears running
unheeded down her cheeks onto her white hand-
kerchief, raised her voice also, and, after several
attempts, succeeded in saying, "And the apothe-
cary gentleman at the corner, he was mighty good
and kind ; he come when I went for him, and he
stayed all night."
The sincere tones and voices, in which ever
and anon came a chord like bonne maman's,
penetrated, in spite of the pillow, to Claire's ears,
and won her to listen. Such glorious, tender
homage to her whom she bitterly supposed un-
known, uncared-for, abandoned even by God,
BONNE MAM AN. 115
raised her head as if by enchantment. She arose
in an excitement of love and gratitude, showing
all her people her sad, emaciated beauty, her out-
worn, out -grown, wretched clothing, and when
they all rushed forward impulsively to embrace
her, she clung to them as indeed to the success-
ors of bonne maman.
A pauper's funeral had been ordered by the
kind apothecary, but the family and friends sum-
moned by Aza formed a cortege that filled the
little street, and the service in the mortuary chapel
where Aza directed the hearse to stop was such as
only the wealthiest could command. At the end
of the procession w^alked — where had Aza found
them all so quickly? — a retinue of old slaves, the
last, highest local affirmation of family worth ;
among them, one of them, in costume, race, con-
dition, was Aza herself, bearing the conventional
black and white bead memorial " Priez pour
It was late in the night, when the deserted
streets promised security from recognition, that
she hastened through them and entered, secretly,
the little back gate-w-ay of the triangular fence
in her slavish dress, worn for the last time. The
piano had already commenced its dances.
THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD.
MADRILENE ; OR, THE FESTIVAL OF
^^^^OTHING was silent about the old
cemetery but the dead themselves —
nothing respectable ,• all the noises
and confusions that had harassed
them in life were here to harrow the
atmosphere above their rest in death ; all the
mould and ugliness of an undergrowth popula-
tion, which their living feet had avoided, lay thick
and fetid all round about the walls ramparted
with tombs that enclosed them now.
The city had grown densely around the ceme-
tery, but the houses had backed up or sidled up,
as it were, not caring to face their grim neighbor.
Those which by necessity did face it had the as-
pect of houses accustomed to look at worse things
in life than death — houses that had not enjoyed
the sad privilege of falling from a higher estate
or disappointing hopeful prospects, but which
had been preordained from the beginning to deg-
radation and ostracism.
A broad space had been left in front by the
city ancestors for some beautiful boulevard or
120 MADRILiNE j
funeral parade-ground, but it had become an
unsightly waste, a " common " for street chil-
dren, a lounging- place for social refuse, a me-
dium for back-door convivialities and intrigues, a
dumping -ground for unmagazinable traffic, and
the lower end of it the landing -wharf for a
schooner fleet, which discharged daily cargoes of
lumber, brick, and charcoal onto the frazzled
grass, and daily crews of negroes, " dagos," and
roughs into the ill-favored coffee-houses at the
Up in the air the thin fine spars of the vessels
could be seen coming in from the distance along
the invisible canal, gliding into and out of occul-
tation, past trees and houses and open garden
spots, and past the cemetery. And sometimes
they seemed sailing or being cordelled straight
through the cemetery ; and then, by a fancy, the
masts and spars looked as if they might be
anchored there with their vessels, and the marble
crosses, spires, and angels, and effigies as if they
might be moving, gliding along in the air, sailing
on through and above the noisome foulness of
the place, with its unwholesome effluvice of cor-
rupting morals, carrying their freight over an in-
visible canal to some pure, quiet, serene, distant
basin. It was a closed cemetery lifetimes ago ;
burial in it had become an inheritance, or a priv-
ilege of society partnership, the funerals dwindling
away into a steady, slow monotony, calculable
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE PEAD. 121
to a fractional certainty. On Sundays and holi-
days, with strange, inexplicable regularity, the
societaire, funerals, with music and banners and
regalia and unlimited carriages, conducted by
drivers of unlimited thirst, to the great pecuniary
profit of the coffee-houses. Once a month, or
perhaps not quite so often, there was a last pomp-
ous effort of some of the old elite, well worth look-
ing at, if only for the ecclesiastical demonstration
and the flowers and the sedate affectations of the
Sunday tippling drivers. Oftenest, however, so
fortunes change, it was the hearse and single car-
riage affair, with a fragmentary procession on
foot, the furtive, almost surreptitious, admittance
of the poverty as well as death stricken heir or
heiress to the ancestral sepulchre. And even
these were interesting, particularly in a crisis of
quiet in the neighborhood, or on rainy days, for
the poor seem always to be buried on rainy days,
as the society members on holidays.
Perhaps it was this guarantee of daily pleasure
food which made the houses in the locality at-
tractive as residences. Sure it is that the neces-
sity of living in that one spot became the tyr-
annous necessity of a vice to those who once
adopted it. When vacancies sometimes occurred
in the shambling tenements through rent failure
of tenant or patience failure of landlord, the billet
seldom remained long over the threshold. If it
were not a place for the industrious, it neverthe-
less required a certain amount of industry to
live up to the daily advantages of idleness ; and
the countenances of the people thereabouts, if
they did not show the fatness of good living,
showed neither the inert vacuity of the pleasure-
It was the last day of October, in its beautiful
morning, with but the gentlest suggestions of au-
tumn radiating through the atmosphere. The
long, lingering summer had faded away like the
febrile dream of an over-luxurious night which
leaves the mind tranquil but alert, the body ener-
vated but pleased. The fine weather for " la
Toussaint " has passed into proverb.
La Toussaint, the Festival of the Dead, is the
ietepar excellence of the city. It is a day encrys-
tallized by time and sentiment with poetic super-
stitions and custom ; the one day upon which
the cemeteries resurrect out of the things they
are, and become the things they should be : radi-
ant sanctuaries, exhaling beauty, purity, and fra-
grance ; when the dead — the impotent, despised
dead — lie enchased in their tombs like saints in
their shrines, to be propitiated with flowers and
importuned with prayers. It is the one day in
the city during which the glittering supremacy
of wealth is nullified ; when not he who lives
finely, but he who is buried finely is envied ;
when the good families of the past are compared
with the parvenus of the present ; when old ro-
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 123
mances and histories enjoy an annual blossoming
out of the names on the mortuary tablets.
"Oh yes, they zxo. grand'' chose now, but show me
where their dead are buried." The most ordinary
servant felt herself in a position to make that re-
mark, and gossiping tongues, whose usual voca-
tion was to spread reports of shameful neglect of
the living, on this day busied themselves about
the more shameful neglect of the dead — if such
cases ever occurred. And those waifs and strays
who begin life in the maternity ward and end it
on the dissecting-table of the hospital, and those
vague asylum humanities who date from nothing
recordable but a parent's death or desertion, and
even the criminals who have suicided from the
moral life of their kind — at no other time do they
feel their deprived condition as on this day.
And some — the cunning ones — go so far as to
affect graves they do not possess, and sally forth
on the morning of All-Saints with the emblems
of remembrances and regrets they have never
known, "just like other Christians," as the local
Coming at a season when strangers yet shun
the place, there is no festival that calls out as it
does the full muster of the populace — a populace
of unfermented original types, strong and full
with the salient untempered flavors of race in-
gredients, a vin brut of humanity.
And if the festival could rouse a whole city to
124 MADRILENE j
intensity of excitement, what must it produce in
the neighborhood of a cemetery, and a cemetery
the oldest, most aristocratic, and most important
of the city? And if November first were such a
day, what must the last of October be, when, from
local appearances, the whole world seemed to
have been caught procrastinating, and had but a
few fleeting hours to prepare their tombs for the
morrow's judgment ? Such hurry ! Such mad-
dening confusion !
In the cemetery itself the most extraordinary
"house -cleaning" was in process, such white-
washing of stucco, scrubbing of marble, reddening
of brick pavements, cutting of grass, trimming of
shrubbery, spreading of clean white sand over
walks, and laying parterres off in fanciful designs
with little shells, and such transplanting of bloom-
ing bushes of marguerites, roses, and borders of
violets into sterile beds ! And the voices order-
ing, protesting, wrangling, hurrying, scolding, di-
recting ! One would think they never had had
more than a day to prepare in.
Outside, on the banquette was the usual market
sf ene of everything that could be required in to-
day's confusion for to-morrow's ornament: hil-
locks of sand and shells, flowers in pots, or torn
up by the roots, or loose in baskets, or wired
around stiff forms — marguerites, dahlias (white,
yellow, and purple), and amaranths, dropping
over with their bulky, fleshy, rich redness ; care-
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 125
fully guarded trays of plaster angels, Madonnas,
infant Jesuses, Saviours, and saints, all fashioned
in Italian likenesses and clothed with Italian
gorgeousness. And all the length of the wall,
hung on nails, wreaths, crosses, hearts, anchors,
fabricated of curled glazed paper, black or white,
or black and white mixed, or of flowers ; white
roses with black leaves, or black roses with white
leaves, or of dried immortelles (purple, black,
white), all tied with shining satin ribbon, gayly
fluttering in the breeze, carrying their legends in
gold and silver printing. And there were not
wanting, also, these for the millionaire griefs, so
to speak — handsome, elaborate, bead memorials,
jingling and showy, carrying their succinctly
pictured desolation in a medallion in the centre :
a tomb, a weeping-willow, and a weeping figure,
addressed in letters around the rim to all the
different mortuary members of the human family,
with all manner of passionate invocations from
the bereavable human heart.
And wherever one could edge herself in, sat
old negro women in tignons, before waiters of
pralines, molasses and cocoa-nut candy, or pans
of pain pafafc, or skillets of dough-nuts frying
over lighted furnaces ; keeping the flies and the
gamins off with long whisks of split palmetto,
while they nodded their heavy sleepy heads. All
the venders crying their wares at once, in the de-
teriorated traditions or personal perversions of
half a score of dialects, with a vociferousness and
persistence that proclaimed the transient nature
of the opportunity.
The coffee-houses at the corner kept up their
usual steady holiday business, realcoholizing their
patrons and turning them out to doze through
the time between drams on the convenient bench
under the awning, or to digest in one long glutton-
ous sleep on the grass their one long gluttonous
drink, or only slightly exhilarated to drift as far as
the planked crossing, where a hilarious crowd was
gathering around a quadroon lad, who held the
only novel feature of the day — a monkey in leash.
The long, lean, lanky animal climbed and
sprang unceasingly at the end of its tether, col-
lecting an unfailing toll of screams and fright
from the passers-by, responding with human ea-
gerness to the prompt applause of its malice.
"Loulou," whispered a little negro to the quad-
roon, "look!" — he pointed to a figure just turn-
ing in from the corner — " Madrilene !''
The girl's height enabled her to carry her long,
flat basket easily above the heads of the people
who streamed over the plank walk with her on
their way to the cemetery. The stiff funereal
glazed paper wreaths piled in her basket stood
out in ghastly becomingness above a face which,
though young, seemed created to be overshad-
owed by the emblems of death : a thin, scraped
profile skin sallow to blackness, hollow eyes,
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD.
brooding brows, a mouth held rigid and expres-
sionless by determination, and eyes fixed in stud-
ied abstraction. As she came closer to view,
her costume seemed not less appropriate to her
burden than her face : her worn shoes, faded
stuff skirt, shrunken sacque, and the ragged ban-
danna kerchief tied not around her head, but un-
der her chin.
She arrived opposite the ill-behaved group of
'men and boys.
" File !"' whispered Loulou to the monkey in
But the wily animal mistook the aim, or sub-
stituted another one. He jumped not to Madri-
lene's basket, but to the head of an unsuspecting
child walking in front of her, and there poised
himself, arching his serpentine tail around his
bald, ashen-gray face, peering over at the child,
and grinning at the terrified screams that fell
upon the air.
Madrilene's expression changed to one of pure
rage. She threw her basket to the ground, and,
as quickly as the animal himself could have done
so, she caught the monkey around the neck,
throttling him as she dragged him off.
" Stop, stop, Madrilene ! Curse you ! stop !"
screamed the quadroon boy, running to the res-
cue of his pet. " Stop ! You are choking him
to death !"
She flung the monkey to the ground to seize
the boy's head by the short, black, curly hair.
She slapped him vigorously. " Dare ! dare !''
she said, "dare frighten white children again !"
The monkey — his simulated distress had been
but another evidence of his versatile talents —
bounded nimbly from the ground, amid the loud
admiring laughter of the crowd.
The boy, who had lain resistless enough in
Madrilene's grasp, recovered himself as soon as
released. Construing the laughter behind him
as mockery to himself, he furiously sought to re-
cover his lost prestige. Shaking his fist at the
back of the girl, he shouted after her :
" Mulatresse ! nigger ! nigger ! 'coon ! 'coon !"
(a localism of irritating significance to the col-
ored), adding other insolences of his quick and
ready invention ; and the insolences of his class
are the unrepeatable of language.
The crowd paid no attention. It was only the
usual street quarrel to them, pursued with the
characteristic violence of the colored. The girl
walked away unheedingly. She paused at the
corner, hesitating between two courses, and then
slowly, as if yielding to temptation, turned to the
right towards the iron cross that rose above the
gate of the cemetery.
Almost unnoticed in the voluble excitement
around it, a funeral was driving up.
A hush spread over the banquette, pantomime
paused, and instantaneously a hedge of specta-
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 129
tors was formed on each side of the entrance, from
which, with that never-sated curiosity of the Hving
about the dead, eager heads craned forward to
Madrilene waited, watching the slow backing
up of the hearse until, struck by a thought, she
turned her head towards the cemetery gate, glan-
cing into it. " Where was the sexton. Monsieur
Pushing her way out of the throng, she ran
quickly across the cleared space into the enclos-
ure and down a path. It had been designed for
a brave, fine cemetery — a fit repository for the
mortal remains of aristocracy and wealth, with
handsome monuments, broad avenues, gentle vis-
tas, and pleasing perspectives. There were some
costly family mausoleums in it and palatial soci-
ety sepulchres — huge mortuary hotels ; but death
had been too indiscriminate and too busy ; and
periodic epidemics in the past had annulled all
plans and calculations. It showed now the con-
fused plenum of a caravansary into which tired,
pilgrims had been driven by stress of weather or
nightfall, glad to huddle themselves together pell-
mell, in any position, confident only of their fa-
tigue and slumber. Whichever way a coffin could
be placed upon the earth, there had arisen a tomb'
over it ; and vaults had been arched upon vaults,
rising higher and higher, stretching their buriali
capacity in the only direction left them.
I30 MADRILiNE ;
In the early days the sexton could not be too
young, strong, and vigorous for his work. Now
it was a mere somnolent porter's task to sit in-
side the lodge day after day, waiting for an order
to open a tomb here, or a certificate that time, by
making a vacancy, authorized a new lease there.
And Monsieur Sacerdote — Fan tome Sacerdote,
as the people pronounced the " Vendome " of his
name — octogenarian, and decrepit to the verge
of vital tenuity, did not find his physical func-
tions taxed by his office.
It was not an easy labyrinth for the feet to
unravel. Life itself had not more vicissitudes
than the gnarled paths, with their obsolete grave
mounds for stumbling-blocks, and their fair open-
ings dammed unexpectedly into aimless cids-de-
sac. But Madrilene ran through them swiftly and
easily, without pause or breath, looking sharply
from side to side, impatiently waving away arrest-
ing voices and gestures, venturing from time to
time a whispered call : " Monsieur Sacerdote !
Monsieur Sacerdote !" She arrived fruitlessly, at
the corner where a scrubby cypress-tree had man-
aged to rear itself to some maturity of funereal
foliage, and where the 'tiers of rented mural sep-
ulchres (" ovens," they are called) rise against the
terminal wall. She ran her eye along the old
worn slabs, with their tottering balustrades and
crumbling bases, pulled by the sinking ground into
queer distortions, like a paralytic's grin. From
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 131
the half-submerged bottom to the grass-covered
top one, there was not a gap in the drear so-
" Monsieur Sacerdote !" she called, louder.
There was only the gay chattering of the peo-
ple cleaning their tombs to be heard, and only
their moving forms to be seen. The girl turned
into another path, and after a few steps almost
fell over the one she sought.
" As I thought — asleep !" she muttered.
One could hardly have been more so inside
the crumbling brick cofhn- shaped structure on
which the old man lay, in face of the tomb he
had just opened. His hat had fallen off, and his
long white hair lay spread out like some curious
lichen growing in the masonry. The warm sun
gleamed on the scant silver threads and shone
on the round, small, red, semi -bald head, and
on the face sinking into formlessness almost as
though corruption and not decrepitude were the
cause. He held a piece of bread in his withered
hand, and the flies buzzed over him and over the
contents of an open tin bucket indiscriminately ;
and the lizards took his figure in as a matter of
course in their frolics after the flies.
" He looks like a runaway corpse," thought the
girl. " Monsieur Sacerdote !" she called, loud-
ly, to him in French — " Monsieur Sacerdote !"
She shook him by the shoulder. " Awake !
awake ! The funeral is at the gate !"
132 MADRILENE ;
The old man's head rolled over into another
position, and the toothless gums resumed their
suspended movements of mastication. The shak-
ing had an effect, but deafness protected his ear.
She put her lips close to it, and sinking her voice
to a piercing distinctness, repeated :
" Wake ! Get up ! The funeral is at the gate.
The funeral ! the funeral !"
"What is it, Marie Madeleine ?"
He closed his eyes again after one feeble open-
ing of them.
" The funeral ! They are looking for you !
Run ! Run to meet them !"
" Eh, Marie Madeleine ?" He was the only
one who ever called her by her name, instead of
by the vulgar contraction of it, and he kept re-
peating it over vaguely, as if it were a part of the
degustation of the bread in his mouth.
She got him to a sitting posture and then pulled
him to his feet, talking, repeating, gesticulating,
coaxing the senile incomprehension out of his
eyes. He finally started, as she bade him, down
a certain path, trotting, with short, stiff, rheumatic
"He will be caught some day, and then, yes,
he will lose his place, and he will be sent to the
Little Sisters of the Poor. Monsieur Sacerdote
with the beggars at the Little Sisters of the
In desperate hurry she began to clear away
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 133
some of the disorder — hiding the tin bucket, gath-
ering up the scattered tools, sweeping the debris
of masonry together. She put her head close to
the opening and peered through the gloom into
the interior of the tomb. Undefinable accumu-
lations rounded the sides and filled the corners.
The far end was hidden in darkness, but there
was a twilight path down the swept centre.
" He has done, indeed, everything. All is
ready. He was only. tired."
She worked over the mortar on the board and
piled the bricks nearer to hand.
Never could guests arrive more inopportunely
than a funeral at the cemetery at such an hour.
The procession was long in coming. The pall-
bearers carried their difficult load slowly through
the hard extremities of narrow spaces and sudden
angles, made still harder by standing buckets of
whitewash, pavements slippery with soapsuds,
and unremoved heaps of trash. All the bustling
workers had to jump into attitudes of respect—
the women, simulating prayers with their lips,
while secretly tugging at their skirts; the men
gingerly taking off their hats with their soiled fin-
gers; the street urchins hurried away from their
momentary jobs, around by-paths, into advanta-
geous positions whence they could make grimaces
and signs at the tormented-looking acolytes.
Marie Madeleine stepped back as the priest
appeared, and put herself in a corner where she
134 MADRILENE ;
could see, but not be seen. Her figure was so
frail and slight it looked like a shadow thrown
where she stood ; her face like a relievo ornament
cut into the marble against which it leaned. The
dazzling white surface, illumined by the full rays
of the sun, made distinct the ordinarily insignifi-
cant minutix of her features, revealing some of
the mysteries of character and age which make
up expression — the softness under the chin ; the
deep indenture of the upper lip; the sharp claw
scratches on the lower ; straight, outstanding eye-
lashes, an irregularity in the line of the nose ; the
unfleshed cheek-bone; the thin, bruised rather
than dark-looking skin ; the opaque, dry, burned-
out eye-sockets ; the eyes black and disturbed,
not with hidden conflicts and rebellions, but car-
rying, like godless worlds, their unshaped con-
tents in chaos. She had pushed her kerchief
from her head ; short rumpled strands of ill-kept
black hair fell over her forehead and behind her
" Her first evening here ! All clean and beau-
tiful and bright ! She comes to her tomb like a
bride to her home, and to-morrow it will be all
flowers and ornaments and burning candles, like
a celebration in her honor. Her family will come
year after year to lay flowers under her name.
Her friends will pass by her tomb every All-
Saints and talk about her. And her family will
die, one after the other, and they will all come in
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 135
there and lie with her ; and little children, far, far
away in the future — children of her family — will
be brought here, all to be buried together, all to
Self-abandoned, self-unconscious, she followed
her thoughts, undisturbed by the muttered func-
tions of the priest and the sharp outbreak of grief
that followed the placing of the coffin in the vault,
and the long, whining sobs that accompanied the
tap-tapping of the bricks by Monsieur Sacerdote's
trowel. She watched the barrier rise higher and
higher, past the coffin, past the flowers on top,
past the black vacant space, to the one little crack
left ; past that, past the breath of life, past life it-
self ! Immured in one long dormitory, with dust
of skeletons, flowers, wood. . , . But Madrilene
took not this view of it.
" It is like getting at night into a bed where
one's father and mother have slept. One should
sleep well in that bed."
Madrilene's bed was a pallet on the floor of
Madame Lais's room.
" One should have none but beautiful dreams
there, and no thoughts to chase one awake all
through the night. And the walls about such a
bed would not show faces to grimace at one. The
night would protect one there from the day —
those horrible da3^s that come back and come back
to remembrance, like dishonest duns collecting
their bills over and over again. It is a fine thing
where parents leave such a bed as that for their
children — regular parents."
Very few of what are called regular parents
live about a cemetery. Ties and relationships
assume a voluntary and transient character in
that careless neighborhood, life flowing by choice
through crooked rather than straight channels.
Madrilene had never lived in any other neighbor-
" And the dead will have their festival to-mor-
row, and she will be among them, fresh from earth.
It will be a birthday to her. To-night at twelve
o'clock she will come out of her new tomb with
them, and they will walk down these paths, visit-
ing one another, and talking and laughing." (A
common superstition.) " They will hurry away
at daylight, but not far away. They will be
above us there in the air, watching, listening, see-
ing everything, knowing everything. They see
who come to their tombs and who stay away ; who
remember, who forget, and who are ashamed, and
who deny them. They will see the little orphans
around the table at the gate, ' chinking, chinking '
the money in their plates. They will see who
give to the orphans and who do not. The parents
of the orphans themselves will see it. But the or-
phans cannot see their parents. Oh no ! Those
who can remember them can see what they knew;
but those who have not known, who do not re-
member, they look into the faces of the passers-by,
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 137
and say, 'Was she like that lady? Was he like
that gentleman?' The white orphans pick out
white ladies and gentlemen for their parents.
God leaves the photographs perhaps in the hearts
of the children. But sometimes the children
don't like the photographs, and then — even the
colored ones pick out white ladies and gentle-
men for their parents."
Her thoughts were leading her up to that em-
pyrean to which human thoughts can rise from
lowest depths, seeking, it may be, their heavenly
source, or it may be only seeking their earthly
The funeral procession went away again, the
grave became deserted, and the busy day seemed
about going, too. The sinking sun began to cast
oblique rays over the tombs ; the breeze blew the
white sails stealthily along the canal outside ; the
noises were ebbing; the throng dispersing. Al-
most — almost — there was quiet in and about the
cemetery. The preliminary warning of the bell
for shutting the gate rang, but the girl heard it
not. As the rich and the happy do, she luxu-
riously let the moments pass unheeded.
Monsieur Sacerdote commenced his rounds
with his long stick to make sure that no evil-
intentioners nor stragglers were shut in, striking
the tombs briskly to herald his approach.
" Ah, mon Dieu !" she exclaimed, as the stick
found her out. " It would be good to stay here
138 MADRILENE ;
this way all the time. Monsieur Sacerdote," she
said to him, stretching out her hand to stop his
staff, " how good it would be to stay here this way
all the time! Never to go back — never to go
back ! To lie here among the clean white tombs
until judgment-day !" This had been in her mind
all her life. When she was a little child, half
naked, all dirty from the streets, she had begged
to be left in the cemetery, "A\ith the dead, with
the good dead, with the white dead ;" and as she
said then, she as childishly said now : " Maybe I
might die, and you might slip me into one of
these tombs here — who would know ? And then
on resurrection-day — it would be a good thing for
resurrection-day to come on All-Saints, wouldn't
it, Monsieur Sacerdote? — on resurrection-day I
would rise with the others. We resurrect white,
do we not, Monsieur Sacerdote ? I would be found
out otherwise. All white — white limbs, white faces,
white wings, white clothes. Not yellow — not black
corpses rising with their white bands." She closed
her eyes and shuddered. " Oh, the fearful sight !
And if I arose with the white, would they turn me
out, do you think ?"
The old man raised his dim eyes to her face,
and began to move his nerveless lips to an-
swer, when a violent blow aimed from behind
missed the girl, and rang on the tomb beside
her; the torrent of abuse that followed was surer.
"Devil! Dog! Vileness ! Wretch! Filth! De-
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD, 139
testable animal of the earth ! Mulatresse ! Ne-
The assailant, a quadroon woman, came into
view, making ineffectual attempts to repeat the
blow. Her passion supplied words too fast for
utterance, the threats and abuse choked her
breath and overloaded her lips. She would hold
on to one word and repeat it mechanically, until
the phrase would come bursting out, carrying a
spray of white foam with it.
" You think you can beat Loulou ! You think
you can beat him in the streets before everybody!
I will beat you ! I will show you ! Filtl\ of the
last gutter in the city ! You shall feel the weight
of this hand, I tell you ! You beat my child for
white children ! White ... Let me get hold of
you ! Let me put hands on you ! I will fix you !
I will teach you! I will strip you! I will kill
you! You . . ."
She seemed to be afraid of saying nothing; no
term repugned her, and no impurity seemed too
impure to apply to the girl, who contented her-
self with avoiding blows, pressing her lips tightly
together, while Monsieur Sacerdote, looking be-
wildered, alternated his " Marie Madeleines !" with
" I command you ! I command you !" to the virago.
She was a large woman, well formed, and had
all the points which go to make the beauty of her
type. Her cheeks glowed with the only blushes
vouchsafed them— the heat of passion ; the blood
seemed almost to start the dark thick skin, and
back of her heavy black eyes it glistened like red
coals of fire. A white scum settled around her
lips — large, full, pampered, pulpy lips — with their
inevitable subtle suggestions of immodesties.
There appeared to be no lengths to which the
tide of passion might not carry her.
" May I ask the price of these?"
The interruption came from a man, the unper-
ceived spectator of the scene, and the concealed
observer of the girl from the moment she awoke
Monsieur Sacerdote. He pointed with his stick
to the basket of paper wreaths.
The quadroon woman instantly included him
in her discourse, giving the girl no space to
" A miserable creature, sir, who is always for-
saking her own race to run after the whites.
And she has the temper of a demon, sir. She beat
my son, beat him almost to death, out there in
the street! A little child — ah, but I shall make
her pay for it!" Then, controlling her passion,
she glided miraculously into the obsequious civil-
ity of her class to the whites, and sought to please,
by voice and demeanor, and a deft flattery of
prejudice. " She should stay in her class, sir;
me, I stay in my class. If God made us quad-
roons, we should be quadroons. She tries to pass
herself off for white,"
The girl almost opened her lips to speak.
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 141
"When quadroons try to pass themselves off
for white, it is for no good purpose, sir, as you
" I will buy a half-dozen of these, but you must
come and put them on the tombs for me, your-
self." The man turned and walked away. Madri-
lene waited in her same attitude.
" Go— go follow the gentleman! Don't you
see he wants to buy some of your wreaths? Go,
but remember — to-night!" The woman added
this in a muttered whisper, half closing her en-
Madrilene, after a moment's hesitation, picked
up her basket and walked after the stranger. He
was reading over the names on a tomb when she
caught up with him.
"These, sir, are not fit for you; they are for
the colored cemetery and the very poor." Her
voice was low. It sounded like a voice seldom
used. " I was on my way to the colored ceme-
tery. I only stopped in here a moment."
" I shall buy some of these, all the same."
" If you would permit me, sir, I could make
you some flower wreaths to-night^real flowers."
" But I would like to put them on the tombs
" Show me the tombs, sir, and I will have them
decorated by daylight to-morrow. Or tell me the
names — I know every tomb here."
" I will show them to you." He pointed out
142 MADRILENE ;
one or two, and then walked on rapidly through
one path after the other.
" Are these all, sir ?"
He started out of his absorption. " Ah, yes,
yes!" and then, one would have said almost at
random, he pointed out three or four other tombs.
" You can pay me to-morrow, after you see
them," she said, in answer to a gesture he made
towards his purse.
And then the delayed evening bell rang imper-
atively, ordering all out of the cemetery before
the closing of the gate. It was full early, as
some discontented grumblers did not fail to re-
mark on their way to the exit.
"That old sexton is so blind, he thinks it is
sundown at mid-day."
" He is too old to see, he is too old to hear — in
fact, he is too old to be alive any longer."
" You noticed he was not there for the funeral
" Somebody ought to report him."
Madrilene passed out into the street. The
stranger paused by the sexton, who stood holding
the gate in his hand.
"Who is this girl.?" he asked, abruptly.
Monsieur Sacerdote looked at the questioner;
he was neither young nor handsome, nor " that
kind of a man."
"Marie Madeleine, but those people call her
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 143
"Who are those people ?"
The old man shrugged his shoulders.
" Do you think that woman will carry out her
Another shrug of the shoulders.
" Where does she live?"
" Those people keep chambrcs garnies some-
where on Street."
The stranger seemed to understand the indefi-
nite reference. He looked at the sexton a mo-
ment, as if to gauge the advisability of further
questions, and then he, too, walked away through
the ugly wasted boulevard.
Marie Madeleine resumed her deferred itin-
eracy, turning the corner at which she had before
hesitated, and walking down the street to the
cemetery set apart for the burial of the col-
It was more neglected, and if possible more out-
raged by entourage, than the other place. There
was no sidewalk, the dilapidated walls patched
up to irregular heights, for the accommodation
of vaults inside, threatened to fall and burst asun-
der at any time. On the high, level places a
miniature forest grew — weeds, grass, and chance
seedlings of trees, and vines that drooped almost
to the ground outside.
As she had done the length of the other ceme-
tery, Madrilene touched the walls as she walked
along with her out-stretched fingers : " Dead in
144 MADRILENE ;
there ! dead in there ! And who were you ? and
who were you ? All dead ! all dead !"
It was only thought, and in words not her own.
Her own words, from the common store of lan-
guage about her, could not have expressed her
thoughts ; or perhaps the thoughts as well as the
words were foreign to her ; perhaps the thoughts
were transplanted with the words from the books
read aloud to Monsieur Sacerdote in surreptitious
hours, in that stolen acquirement which neither
Madame Lais nor her family suspected. Read-
ing! They would as soon have provided her
with a looking-glass.
There were the same scenes around this ceme-
tery as the other one. The same or rather a
greater throng, and greater hilarity. Nature was
the same — sun, atmosphere, verdure, houses — all
the same. But the faces of the people, they were
different ; passed over, as it were, with a color for
a travesty; with an ochreous wash. Yellow, yel-
low, brown, black — almost all yellow. Differ-
ences of feature and expression, height and figure,
were all lost in the one monotonous hue — the hue
of a race creeping down, or is it a race creeping
up the scale ? A patois race.
Madrilene hastened through it as if flying from
pursuit. But who can distance thoughts? And
she had been fury-driven since she could think.
And such thoughts — such strange thoughts ! Did
she think the thoughts herself, or did God, who
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 145
sends so much into the hearts and minds of
young girls — even to the most abject — send them
to her? How could she ascertain? Could she
have questioned Madame Lais, or Palmyre — the
virago mother of Loulou— or Antoinette, or Phi-
lomene, or Athalie, or any of Madame Lais's other
daughters ? Or any of the yellow men who came
through the back gate to visit them? Or any of
the white men who rented rooms from Madame
She might have had ample opportunity to ask
these last, if, like Antoinette, Philomene, Palmyre,
and Athalie, she had chosen to serve them — carry
them their coffee of mornings, attend to their
chambers, wash and mend their clothing for them.
There could not be found more amiable servitors
than the four daughters of Madame Lais, what-
ever their back-yard character might be, and so
they never lacked pocket-money, fine dresses, and
But Madrilene would never serve the lodgers.
At first she had to endure suffering to maintain
her obstinate refusal. That was a little over a year
ago, when people began to call her cette jeune
fille. She would not have been clothed in such
rags now had she yielded to Madame Lais. Sell-
ing these wreaths on commission once a year
was not a lucrative profession, and the rest of her
time and service was due Madame Lais for her
food and clothing:.
146 MADRILENE ;
She entered the colored cemetery, and went
down the broad central walk, Midway before
her a black iron arch held a black iron cross
high up against the evening sky. The tall, nar-
row tombs on each side arose close together,
almost touching. Were they really different from
the tombs in the other cemetery, or did they
only appear so to the morbid eye? They were
not all black, nor all white, either, but mixed,
like the people they enclosed, with interfusions,
trimmings, and fleckings of one color upon the
other, unconsciously sinister. And the nomen-
clature on the tablets ! Such a different read-
ing from the tablets in the other cemetery!
Names, fictitious, assumed, composed, or stolen;
some of them sounding sweet in the mouth, like
the anonymes of poets and poetesses; some of
them that might have answered at the roll-call
of Charlemagne; some of them petting diminu-
tives, like the names of birds and lapdogs; some
of them catching the eye with their antique
integrity, like bits of jewelry in pawn-shop win-
dows. But all of them one-sided names. For
the black that had tinged so many fair complex-
ions, muddied the depths of so many clear eyes,
and alloyed the expression of so many noble
profiles, the black that had diverted the course
of so many names and destinies — all that was
nameless and unrecorded, barred out, like the
pure black people themselves from this cemetery.
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 147
Marie Madeleine sold her wreaths the length of
the walk. The night promised so fair that over
the society tombs draperies were being hung, in
readiness for the morrow, the funeral trappings
of a by-gone regality — black velvet palls, spotted
with white tear-drops; old -fashion black hang-
ings for the outside of houses, with profuse appli-
cations of skulls and cross-bones ; and hearse and
coffin ornaments borrowed from the undertaker.
When she had sold her store out, she waded
through the tall grass of a side path until she
came to an isolated tier of vaults. As she had
expected from the lateness of the hour, no one
was there. Each one of all the square tablets
in the rows carried its memorial — all except one.
" Rosemond Delaunay " was the name it bore.
Delaunay was the family name of Madame
From under the paper at the bottom of her
basket the girl took a bead medallion — the con-
ventional tomb, weeping-willow, and weeping fig-
ure. It bore the inscription, " A ma Mere." She
held it for a moment in her hand. It seemed to
weigh heavy, pulling her arm down, while she
looked before her into vacancy. Returning to
herself, by force of will, she hung the tribute on
the nail fixed for that purpose in the tablet. The
crumbling mortar loosed its hold, nail and medal-
lion fell to the ground.
" Pas ramassez li ! li tombe par terre ! Bon
148 MADRILENE ;
Die la oule !" (Do not pick it up ! It fell to the
earth ! Good God wished it !)
Before looking, Marie Madeleine recognized
the voice of old Zizi Mouton, the occult terror of
Madame Lais's life, reputed to be one of the " old
people " who know everything. She was seated
on the ground, her feet in the dry ditch ; an old,
decrepit black negress; her face a bundle of
wrinkles tied up in a head-kerchief ; the bright lit-
tle black bead eyes seeming to draw the whole
physiognomy in to some interior fastening. She
pushed out her long stick, and held the medallion
to the earth. " Pas ramassez li, mo dit toi ! Pas
ramassez li !"
The girl did what Madame Lais would have
been afraid even to think. She pushed the stick
aside, picked up her wreath and the nail, saying,
in Creole : " Let me alone, Zizi !"
" Hd, Madrilene ! Vie Zizi a raison ! Bon
Die a raison !" (Old Zizi is right ! Good God is
Like all voudoos, old Zizi professed to be the
oracle of God. Madrilene hammered the nail
back into its place with a piece of brick, and hung
the wreath up again, and stood hiding her face in
The passers-by thought she was weeping or
praying, as many others were doing around her,
for these tombs, at this season, move the heart
almost beyond control.
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 149
The Strange gentleman who had ordered the
flowers from her in the other cemetery, always
walking behind her, always observing her, might
have wished, as he stood there out of reach of
her eye, to hide his face also, as the girl did, the
thoughts that would intrude on a gentleman, not
to say a moralist, like him in this cemetery being
perhaps more comfortably entertained in solitude
and silence, behind folded hands.
After Marie Madeleine had walked well away,
old Zizi prized herself up with hand and stick
from the ground, tore the wreath from the nail,
and beat the nail again out of its place, muttering,
" Ah, Lais ! coquine !"
When the old woman had left, the stranger ap-
proached and studied the inscription on the tomb
and the inscription on the bead memorial ; and
then, still in pursuit of an object or an idea, walked
out of the cemetery into the street, retracing his
steps towards the other graveyard.
Darkness had fallen after the short twilight.
Those of the " marchands " and "marchandes"
who had obtained advantageous positions against
the wall were preparing to hold them by camping
on the spot all night. Others were slowly bun-
dling up their wares for a reluctant departure.
The coffee-houses had gathered in and were hold-
ing their noisy clients about them. Aboard the
schooners in the basin, lighted fires began to show,
flaming against the bottoms and sides of over-
hanging caldrons, casting magic circles of red
brightness around lounging groups of swarthy
men. Through the gloom the evil night human-
ity that haunt such spots could be seen beginning
their quest for adventures and victims, and old
Zizi Mouton, hobbling on her stick, was drop-
ping, or pretending to drop, those voudoo charms
which, picked up this night around the cemetery
walls, were peculiarly potent for good or for evil.
As he had accosted the sexton, the stranger
accosted the old negress, and with the same in-
quiry, " Who is this girl Madrilene ?"
He had passed the girl on the street. She
was leaning against a high board fence, her bas-
ket on her head, unobservant to blindness from
The voudoo did not need to be questioned
twice. " Madrilene, eh ? And Madame Lai's !"
She put her finger on her lip, and motioned the
gentleman to follow her.
There was one person to whom Marie Made-
leine could lay bare her mind — Monsieur Sacer-
dote. Those who dwell in the serene atmos-
phere of prosperity and happiness know not the
findings of sympathy, love, and devotion that lie
in the murky depths of poverty and misfortune.
But the tie that bound Marie Madeleine to Mon-
sieur Sacerdote was hardly the human confed-
eracy known as friendship. If one called it a
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 151
religion, one would more fitly describe it. Was
it not a thing of the soul with her? An aspira-
tion, an inspiration, the semblance of a hope, the
invisibility of a faith ? Where did she look for
him when she sought him in her mind ? At her
level ? On a platform of earthly elevation ? Or
above her in those unattainable heights in which
one must be born ?
He was above her ; born above her. Oh, there
was no doubt about that ! The most audacious,
the most impudent, the most infuriated, the most
drunken, the lightest of the light-colored, what-
ever they might say, in their secret hearts, she
knew, never disputed that the white are born
above the black.
Was not God white to them? The Saviour-
white ? The Virgin white ? The saints, martyrs,
angels, all white ? The people they read of in
books, were they not all white ? And the people
they saw on the stage ? Did the whites want to-
change their whiteness for blackness ? Did the
blacks want to change their blackness for white-
ness ? However much they might despise old
Fantome Sacerdote for his wretchedness, how-
ever much they shunned him with superstitious
terror, he was what they could never be, and he
was of the color of those whom they worshipped.
The deduction was very simple and easy to Marie
Madeleine. When she looked at him she saw
the originals of the pictures that hang in churches ;
when she listened to him she heard them, and
when she talked to him it was almost as if she
were praying ; only the prayers to God, once
learned, were always the same. What she told
Monsieur Sacerdote were the ever-new accumula-
tions, the constant drippings day by day from the
invisible into an opening mind. Into the busy
mind of a waif and stray about fifteen, however,
thoughts do not drip, but flood in storming tor-
rents, particularly about the time of All-Saints.
The place where Monsieur Sacerdote passed
his nights might have been blamed as being more
insalubrious than where he passed his days. A
high, close fence hid the interior from the curious
eye, and a heavily bolted gate protected it from
intrusion. The tall fence was responsible for
some of the misery it hid, for the sun had a
chance of entering that way at least. The damp-
ness trickled down the sides of these high brick
walls into the little enclosure as into a well, and
from the street the green moss could be seen flour-
ishing on the peaked roof of the low house, and
planks had to be used to bridge the mud from
the door-step to the gate.
The superstition was not against the sexton's
office — experience all over the city refuted that.
It was against the man, about whose uncanny per-
sonality the stories were never allowed to die out.
He was even used as a reproach to the hovel that
sheltered him, a hovel whose wretchedness and
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD, 153
poor appearance should have rendered it below
reproach ; and he was used not only as a reproach,
but a missile of insult against Marie Madeleine,
not only by Loulou in the street, but by Madame
Lais at home, and by the malicious everywhere.
What she suffered from her refusal to serve the
lodgers was even less than what she suffered from
her persistence in serving the sexton.
Arrived at the gate with her empty basket, she
did not attempt to make herself heard. That
would have been a noisy process. She leaned,
as usual, against the fence and waited. If Mon-
sieur Sacerdote wished to let her in, he would
come after a while and open the gate for her. If
he did not, she would go on home. Is God re-
quired to answer all prayers ?
If he wished to see her, the taper floating in
its glass of oil would soon be creeping along the
plank walk to the gate. The rusty bolt would
resist, and the rusty key would squeak, but, with
her weight added to the outside, the gate would
finally open, and the old man would say, "My
child, come in." Fancy if God should speak out
and call her "my child!"
And then he would give her a book to read
aloud to him — a book that for age could have
been her grandparent, and she would read aloud
to him in that beautiful reading he had taught
her. No one suspected — Madame Lais least of
all — that she could read. Because Madame Lais
154 MADRIL^NE ;
would never let her go to school, she thought that
she would never learn to read. She had learned
her alphabet from the tombstones, helping Mon-
sieur Sacerdote in his work, during the first days
of their friendship. In the cemetery the sexton
would tell her about the people in the tombs, but
in his little house he v/ould tell her about the
people in books. When she would go home at
night, her head would be filled with what she had
read and what he had told her, and so she could
stand Madame Lais — her tempers, her language,
her atmosphere — her whole world, in fact. And
while Madame Lais lay in her bed, and Madrilene
lay on the floor, as in old times slaves lay in the
sleeping chambers of their mistresses, her head
would be lifted far, far above her surroundings
by the ideas the books gave her. And when Ma-
dame Lais would call her and wake her and treat
her as, let us hope, few mistresses treated their
slaves, it was still an affair of the body, and not
of that soaring, inflated mind. It was those even-
ings when she did not read aloud to Monsieur
Sacerdote that the walls grimaced at her, and the
days came back to torment her, and the close
ladened atmosphere of the room suffocated her,
and life took on terrific features. She would look
far, far back in her memory for some help, but
there was none. She would look far, far ahead
in the future, and still there was none. Madame
Lais behind and Madame Lais before her, and
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 155
all about her the Africanized wall of Madame
Lais's children and grandchildren. Better for
her, fatherless, nameless, to be lying in the tomb
with the husbandless Rosemond Delaunay than
live with these husbandless, fatherless nieces and
sisters of Rose'mond Delaunay.
What desperations, what agonizing impoten-
cies, did she not feel at these moments ! She was
so ignorant, so brutalized, so blind !
No, evidently Monsieur Sacerdote was not go-
ing to let her in this evening. She must go home.
The nine o'clock bell was ringing. He never let
her in after nine o'clock.
Arrived at her street, she selected among the
row of ill-kept, ugly-looking back doors that faced
the cemetery the one that belonged to her home.
As she was about to put her hand on the latch,
it was lifted from the inside, and old Zizi Mou-
ton, bending herself more double than ever,
slipped out as noiselessly as a black cat, and
nimbly ran down the banquette, in the opposite
direction from Marie Madeleine. " She is prepar-
ing some of her devilment," thought the girl.
" She does not imagine that I have seen her."
There was loud talking inside — Palmyre's
voice. Madrilene waited with her hand on the
Zizi Mouton, after her more than voluminous
revelations, had conducted the stranger to the
156 MADRILENE ;
front door of the same house. It was as pomp-
ous as its obverse was contemptible. The pla-
card " Chambres Garnies " swung from the gal-
lery at the end of a long wire, just over the heads
of the banquette pedestrians. Here and there on
the block other placards swung and fluttered —
an ominous sign for the neighborhood. The ap-
pearance of the first of such placards is the ap-
pearance of a first taint spot in the value of
property in a locality — a symptom of corruption,
and the forerunner of depreciation.
Chambres garnies mean different things to dif-
ferent people, or shall we say, different minds. A
furtive visit to an involved landlord or landlady
by a hesitating, heavily veiled woman ; a high
rent offered and guaranteed by the confidential
communication and signature of some well-known
name ; a new light thrown on some hitherto im-
maculate character, or an old one rekindled from
a smouldering scandal ; the hesitation on the
part of the property-holder between putting an
insult out-of-doors or putting it into the pocket
— chambres garnies mean this to some. To others
they represent only a comfortable system of lodg-
ing where landlady and servant are harmoniously
one ; where references are not required, and su-
pervision is carefully abstained from ; where free-
dom of movement and secrecy are guaranteed.
To strangers they are attractive as repositories
of romance, magazines of tropical poetry, studies
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 157
of picturesque domesticities, a curious half-world,
legitimized on the one side by prejudice, on the
other by sympathy.
A ring of the chambres garnies' bell fetches, after
a long interval, a black boy or girl, scrubbing-
brush in hand, thin, poorly clad, miserable-look-
ing, as a negro must be who serves his or her
own color: has it been said \\\z.\. chambres garnies
are always exquisitely clean?
A stranger would ask for Madame Brown or
Madame Smith, but a townsman asks for Madame
Lais, or maybe Lais. He then remains standing
during another long interval, glancing around him.
The hall and staircase are perfectly bare, ex-
cept for the foot-fall-stilling drugget. The cham-
bers, however, unless occupied, always stand open,
advertising of their handsome interiors — the vel-
vet carpets and damask curtains, the great bed-
stead with lace-trimmed dressings, the arnioire a
jjiiroir; the lavabo, with its fine porcelains and
linens ; the biscuit statuettes and vases of paper
flowers on the mantel. Interiors of a vague, un-
defined, differentiating luxury, inexplicable, or it
may be simply unexplicable. . . .
A scraping rather than a rustling is heard in
the upper regions — a scraping from skirts sharp-
ened as weM as stiffened by unstinted starch.
They scrape down the steps slowly, for Madame
Lais is stout, and finally come to stillness and
quietude before the expectant stranger. And
158 • MADRILENE;
he sees, if it is spring, summer, autumn, or winter,
a long, loose, white " Gabrielle," with elaborate
trimmings of ruffles and lace, that show the yellow
neck and arms underneath, a yellow face, thickly
dusted with white powder, and hair smoothed into
a topknot with French heliotrope pomade, and a
soft, fat face, whose values, not at first appreci-
able, begin to make themselves felt as beauty by
force of certain underlying suggestions. But
what the stranger sees is infinitesimal in compar-
ison with what Madame Lais sees. Her eyes
have been trained to see as other eyes have been
trained to shoot, and men, not boards, have been
from time immemorial their target. AVhat Ma-
dame Lais sees in a stranger decides in an instant
whether she has a vacant room, the price of it,
the price of laundry and personal services — serv-
ing coffee in bed mornings, attendance when ill,
etc. A great many apply for rooms to find them
always filled. Some never apply without finding
the best one vacant and at the disposition of
If he likes the modus vivendi, it is very com-
fortable for the stranger after he is once taken in
by this or another Madame Lais. He rarely ever
seeks other lodgings, and he will travel willingly
year after year from one house to the other with
his chambres garnies' hostess, who does not attach
herself generally to buildings. He has his coffee
punctually in the morning, and his mending and
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD, 159
laundry without a remission. If he falls ill, he is
nursed ; and it is safe to say no one in New Or-
leans can nurse like Madame Lais — the tender-
ness of a mother, the devotion of a slave, the del-
icacy of a wife, the unflinching patience of a
hospital Sister, all combined ! One never thinks
of blushing before a Madame Lai's, or apologiz-
ing. One has absolutely no self-consciousness
with her. One can be or do what one pleases
before her with surety. There is no shocking
her. That makes, in short, the merit of her class,
putting them as lodging-house keepers beyond
competition and rivalry. And she is comely, too,
and young; or at least her daughters are, or her
granddaughters, or her nieces. She sometimes
nurses the stranger through life to a good old
age ; and when he dies, if he leaves anything —
but he rarely leaves anything. If he does, how-
ever, soon after the mortuary certificate there is
generally a little testament produced, written very
recently — produced by Madame Lais herself — a
testament unknown of the expectant nieces and
nephews. When they read this testament they
thank God, perhaps, that there are no other docu-
ments produced — only witnesses. When these last
are forthcoming, it is a nine-days' talk in the
scandal world, if the matter gets into court. And
the disinherited nieces go to sewing or piano-
playing for a living ; that is, if the family is of
the city. If they Uve outside or in foreign parts,
l6o MADRILENE ;
they are generally saved the pain of knowing
anything beyond the fact of death — unless they
are contentious and sceptical. And the hand-
somely furnished chambers are always getting
more handsomely furnished, and the petticoats
are always getting stiffer, and the " Gabrielles "
more elaborately trimmed, and the chatnhres gar-
nies' granddaughters and nieces wear more and
more jewelry, and drift, more and more of them,
into salaried positions under the government.
What Monsieur Sacerdote saw with his dull
vision, Madame Lais could not fail to see : that
this stranger who applied to her at nightfall for
lodgings was not "that kind of a man:" a grave,
sedate, middle-aged scholar, but with eyes, for the
matter of that, that gathered as much in a glance
as Madame Lais's. They were not, however, the
eyes through which occupants of chambres garnies
look at life, and his voice was not propitious.
Her rooms were all full — unalterably, irrevoca-
bly full ; not even a vacancy on the highest gal-
lery, not even the bare closet he persisted in de-
Madame Lai's regretted it very much in her
voluble, frank, amicable way, telling of houses all
around her where chambers were vacant ; not
two doors off was a white lady, one of the best
old Creole families, who took boarders.
"Where is that loud talking?" questioned the
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. i6i
" Those young girls amusing themselves in
the yard," she answered, shrugging her large
He listened with ill-concealed interest.
Madame Lais opened the door to facilitate his
departure, but sprang back in dismay from the
" Ah, misere ! Ah, grand Dieu ! Do not let
them touch me ! Kick them away, monsieur !
For the love of God, kick them away with your
foot !" She ran backward into the hall as far as
the staircase, pointing with both hands to the
spot where lay scattered a dozen or more minute
paper parcels. "Ah! what is going to happen
to me now ? It is that old voudoo ! It is that
old Zizi Mouton ! My God, why does she not
let me alone ? Kick them away, monsieur — kick
them away !"
At that instant a scream sounded through the
long passage-way — a call. The woman turned
and ran in the direction from whence it came,
the man after her.
Madrilene, outside the gate, listened to Pal-
myre's voice rising louder and louder.
" No one shall lay hands on my child ! I will
kill any one who lays hands on my child ! My
child is as good as any one !"
They always use extreme threats, the colored.
Madrilene had heard her rage in the same way
i62 MADRILENE ;
against Loulou himself ; had she not, in fact,
taken a hatchet to him more than once ? The
best way was to leave her alone, to take no
notice of her; let her talk herself out until ex-
hausted, when she would throw herself down any-
where upon the ground, upon the floor, and snore
until daylight. Madrilene heard the others an-
swering her, laughing at her. She knew, if they
did that, Palmyre would keep it up all night ;
Madame Lais herself could do nothing with her
in that mood.
" My child is as good as any one ! No one
shall touch my child ! I will cut any one open
who touches my child !"
The men and women inside laughed again.
They were exciting Palmyre. Fools ! Did
they want her carried off by the police to the cala-
boose, as she had been not so very long ago ?
Madame Lais had to pay enough money for that
" I will show you ! I will show you ! I will
break every bone in her body ! The moment she
comes in you will see ! Oh, I'll pay her !"
The girl outside felt a thrill of terror. Would
Palmyre dare, would she dare touch her ? Even
Madame Lais had never dared that but once —
the day, so long ago, when she had fled into the
cemetery for refuge, the first clay she had ever
seen Monsieur Sacerdote ; the day she had
begged him to leave her with the good dead, the
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 163
white dead. Would Palmyre dare touch her ?
Would the others let her — that crowd of disor-
derly men and women laughing and jeering in
the yard ? And the cemetery was lock-fast now,
and no Monsieur Sacerdote at hand !
" I will strip her naked ! I will stamp her ! I
will make her howl !"
She could run back, she could call, she could
beat on the gate, and make herself heard of Mon-
sieur Sacerdote ! But — but pass those drinking
shops again ? Pass all those roistering men ?
Go again through that dark alleyway ? She was
afraid. Born and raised in the streets, she was
afraid of them at night ; afraid of them at the very
age when other colored girls frequent them. No,
she was not afraid of Palmyre when she thought
of the streets. Palmyre ? Palmyre was afraid
of her. They all were afraid of her, even Ma-
" I dare her to come in ! I dare her to open
that gate ! I dare her like . . ."
The girl shrank back involuntarily. Did Pal-
myre suspect she was out there ?
But this street was no place to stop in ; this
gate was known ; any moment something might
happen to a woman all alone at this gate, and no
policeman anywhere, except, perhaps, drinking in
" Low scum of the gutters ! Let me lay my
hands on her ! She will wish she was dead !"
A crowd of noisy men were coming along now,
singing. They would think she was there pur-
posely. Oh, she was afraid of men ! Afraid of
them ? None of Madame Lais's family were
afraid of men. Afraid of ghosts and voudoos .''
yes ; but men, no. And Madrilene was afraid of
men, but not ghosts nor voudoos. The men were
getting nearer and nearer, singing like firemen :
firemen were the worst kind, or the men that fol-
low firemen. In daylight her heart would jump
and start if one looked at her. What was she
afraid of ? What could they do to her ? She did
not know ; only she was afraid, afraid.
" Oh, I will make her dance !"
They laughed inside at Palmyre's wit !
The men were passing now. They had seen
her. They were all around her. She flattened
herself against the gate. One pinched her arm,
one pinched her cheek, one — Oh, better Pal-
myre ! She pressed the latch ; the gate fell open
with her weight ; she was inside !
" Ha ! There she is ! Ha !"
"Palmyre, do not dare touch me !" she cried.
Dare ? Dare .'' Oh, better the men outside
than these blows, these scratches, this tearing of
" Do not dare ! do not dare !" she kept calling.
She was still at the gate ; she could still gain the
street. She was almost outside.
" I will strip you first !"
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 165
Her sacque was torn with one jerk from her
body. Pahnyre had her safe enough now inside.
Could the others not in the darkness see the
blows descending upon her .'' Could they not
hear them through the cursing and swearing that
accompanied them .-' Did they not know that
Palmyre carried a knife in her bosom — she car-
ried her bosom naked enough for them to see it.
Madrilene sprang from under the heavy arms of
Palmyre to the steps, to the gallery above. Oh,
if the lattice were only away, she could spring
into the street below !
" I will catch you ! I will cut you open !"
The naked fleshy mass crowding her, the blows,
the darkness, the epithets, the hot puffing breath,
the odor. " Help ! help !" She felt the knife. It
was cutting — cutting ! " Help ! help !" She knew
not herself what her lips were screaming. It was
a crucifrcial cry, an alarm not from herself, but
from something within her driven to voice by ex-
tremity of pain and humiliation. " Help ! help !
Negroes are murdering a white girl in here !
It was a cry to awaken the dead in the ceme-
tery over there, to raise and arm a mob, to para-
lyze the fist over her, to paralyze her own lips —
an unheard-of, an unknown, an uncodified cry,
an unrepeatable one 1 She heard the air car-
rying it out high over the street, shrill, quaver-
l66 MADRILilNE ;
ing, forking a sudden, jagged course like light-
ning, rebounding from high walls, echoing in
hollow alleyways, leaving behind it one dark,
still, stark, void moment of suspense— and armis-
Then hearing, clotted with the answers, the
sound of voices, the tramp of running feet, open-
ing of doors, banging of windows. " Hold on !
We are coming ! we are coming ! Hold on !"
Far off in whispers, near at hand in shouts. "We
are coming! we are coming!"
She had fallen. It was dark before her eyes
when they came, but she saw them : heads, heads,
heads, row behind row — dishevelled coffee-house
heads, glossy parlor heads, " dago " heads tied in
handkerchiefs, firemen heads under helmets, the
heads of the men who had pinched her cheek and
arm, and women's heads, with open, screaming
mouths. She had summoned a race to her res-
cue ; they had come ! How the floor trembled
when Palmyre was flung upon it !
Away off, Madame Lais's head ; behind her,
the head of the stranger who had ordered flowers
from Madeleine in the cemetery ; behind him, old
Zizi Mouton's head ; behind, behind, the head of
Monsieur Sacerdote. And the dead were com-
ing, too, from the cemeter}' — the good dead, the
white dead. Far up above the ceiling she saw
lights and flying bodies — all white ! all white !
White faces and white gowns, with paper wreaths
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 167
of her own manufacture, dressed for the morrow's
festival. They had come at her cry ; they, too !
they, too !
What noise — what confusion down below ! In
the room, on the gallery, in the yard, on the
street. What cursing ! What threats, threats,
threats ! Voices, leaping higher and higher in
the effort to be heard, reaching her, and dragging
her down to earth again.
" Is she killed ?" " Hold the woman !" " Fling
her to us !" " Tie her hands !" " Drag her out !"
" Secure the knife !" " Police ! Police !" " No
police ! No police !" " Fling her to us !" " A
doctor !" " The coroner !"
All quiet and beautiful around her, up there by
the ceiling. So sweet ! so soft ! But she was
pulled down like a balloon to where the loud
tongues of Palmyre's sisters had rallied for ready
" Madrilene didn't do anything !" " Madrilene
didn't slap Loulou !" " That she-devil Palmyre !"
" I wish to God she was dead !" " I told her
so !" " I held her back !" " And I !" " And I !"
" And I !" " Loulou is rotten !" " Loulou rides
over us all!" "Tell the truth, Madrilene!"
" Tell the God's truth !" " See, she can't talk !"
" She's fainted !" " She's dead !" " Palmyre cut
her !" " Palmyre has no business carrying a
knife !" " I tried to take it away !" " And I !"
" And I !" " She's not the first girl Palmyre has
l68 MADRILENE ;
cut !" "And she's won't be the last, I tell you !"
" Here's the police !" " Here's the doctor !"
" Lift her up, so he can get at her !"
It was the stranger who lifted her up. Some
one — old Zizi Mouton — threw an apron over her
A groan of rage fell from the crowd at the sight
of the beaten girl's face. Tempers became uglier,
more menacing ; the shrill voices of Palmyre's
sisters more pressing, more anxious.
" She's only pale !" " She's not white !" " No,
sir, she's not white !" " She's a nigger !" " She's
no more white than me !" " She's told a lie !"
" Before God, she's not white !" " We are all
niggers !" " It's only a quarrel between niggers !"
"Niggers will fight!" "No, sir! Palmyre wouldn't
touch a white person ! Palmyre's no fool !" " Ma-
drilene's our cousin !" " She is Madame Lais's
niece !" They all called their mother Madame
Lais ; it is one of the arrangements of their class.
" Madrilene knows she is the daughter of Rose-
mond Delaunay !" " She is buried in the colored
cemetery!" "I can show you her tomb !" "Ev-
erybody knows it !" " Ask anybody !" " Ask
Madame Lais !" " Ask Madrilene herself !" And
the chorus recommenced : " Tell the truth, Ma-
drilene !" " Tell the God's truth !"
She struggled to find the ground with her feet,
to put away the crowd, to say one word. They
would all go away then. All — those around her.
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 169
those up there. They thought she was white —
white like themselves. Would the quadroon-
faced come when they went away ? The white
garments with quadroon faces and hands ?
"I — I — I am — I am not — I only — called — the
If she could only push the words between her
lips ! But they burst on her tongue like bubbles.
She felt them, the words, in her hands ; if she
could only shove them where all would see them !
But they weighed down her arms like the bead
chaplet in the cemetery. If Palmyre only had
not been so strong !
Her head fell over on the stranger's shoulder
and her eyes closed, and she began again to as-
cend, far, far above them all, where the white
forms were still waiting for her as if she, too, were
white. But still the voices from earth reached
her 4nd held her stationary. If some one would
only cut the voices, and let her rise— rise never
to come back again !
" She wanted to talk !" " See how well she
looks !" " She's only weak !" " She's been bleed-
ing!" "Hush! She hasn't been cut at all!"
" She fell over a hatchet !" " He, Madrilbne, how
do you feel, chere .?" " Madrilene, did you get the
dinner I saved for you in the kitchen ?" " I tried
to help you, didn't I, chere ?" " See, she hears
me !" " Madrilene, you remember, don't you,
Toinette tried to help you?" "Yes, she nodded
lyo MADRILENE ;
her head." " I never did have any use for Pal-
myra !" " Palmyre's temper's too quick." " I
love Madrilene like my sister." " Madrilene al-
ways loved me." " Who-o-o ! look at all the po-
lice !" The words caused a scramble. " Here,
let me go!" " Let me get away, quick !" " For
God's sake, don't take me !" " I had nothing
to do with it!" "I wasn't even in the yard!"
" I never laid eyes on Palmyra and Madrilene
all this day !" " I swear to you I have bean
dressing the tomb of my grandmother !" " I
came in with the crowd !" " Madrilene knows
nobody was here but her and Palmyre !" " Ma-
drilene could talk well enough if she wanted to !"
" There's nothing the matter with her !" " Pal-
myre barely touched her !" " Take Palmyre ; she
was the only one !" "Take Madrilene !" " Ma-
drilene commenced it !" " Madrilene had no
right to beat Palmyre's child !" " He was doing
nothing to her !" " Madrilene drew the knife
first !" " I saw her do it !" " I swear I saw her
do it !" " Palmyre was only funning !" " Pal-
myre only did it to frighten her !" " She's not
hurt !" " She's only making out !" " Madame
La — is !" " Oh, Madame La — is, they're taking
me !" " Madame La — is I" " Where's Madame
Lais ?" " She was here a moment ago !" " She
ran back to hide !" " She ran back to lock up !"
" That's right, Palmyra, you fight !" " Don't go
with them!" "They've no right to take you!"
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 171
" You let me alone !" " Take your hands off
me !" " I won't go with you !" " Go to the
devil !" " I won't go to jail !" " I wo — n't go
to jail !" "Madame Lais, oh, Madame Lais, they
are taking me to jail !" The women could be
heard far down the street, drawing a procession
The police tried to question the girl. She could
not answer. They questioned the stranger. He
gave them his name and address ; he had heard
threats, suspected rascality, etc. They questioned
Monsieur Sacerdote, hallooing to make him hear.
" They have found Madame Lais ! They are
arresting her !"
" She won't come. They are dragging her
" What does this mean ? What are you doing
here ? What are all these people doing in my
Madame Lais held her head thrown back, just
as during the war, when she was a little girl, she
remembered seeing her mistress, old Madame
, throw her head back when invading soldiers
entered her house, and she talked to the white
people about her and the police not as if they
were soldiers, but negroes.
" I order you to quit these premises on the in-
stant ? W^here is the girl ? What is the matter
172 MADRILi;NE ;
with her ? What does she mean by screaming in
that manner ? Here, give her to me. Let me
attend to her."
She put forward her hands to take Madrilene
from the stranger ; he put them aside, and felt
that they were wet with perspiration and colder
than Madrilene's. Her lips were trembling, too,
in spite of her efforts, and her face — quadroons
do not get white, they blacken for pallors —
black spots settled around Madame Lais's mouth,
under her eyes, on her cheeks. In her assur-
ance she was white ; in her fear she was all
" What are you doing here ? What have you
to do with that girl ? What is this man doing
here ?" she demanded of the police. " It is an
intrigue ; it is — "
Old Zizi Mouton, crouching out of sight be-
hind the stranger, plucked his sleeve, and whis-
pered, " Send her to the calaboose with the oth-
Madame Lai's shook the policeman's hand off
her arm. It was an arm that had become accus-
tomed to light handling. For a moment she
looked the enraged quadroon, like her daughter
" Do not dare touch me ! I will complain to
the Governor ! I will complain to the Mayor !
I will see the chief of police ! I will have you
discharged ! I will sue for damages 1"
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 173
" Have her arrested. Send her to the cala-
boose," whispered Zizi Mouton.
" I have money ! 1 have friends who will pro-
tect me ! General , Collector , Major
, Colonel , Dr. , Judge , Sen-
ator , Mr. ."
The police themselves fell back at her re-
sources of money and influence. The women in
the mob laughed.
"Oh, the old rascals!" "Oh, that Lais!"
" Eh, mon Dieu ! let me go home after that !"
"You heard the names, heirs?" "Lord! Lord!
Lord !" " Send her to the calaboose." Zizi Mou-
ton plucked the stranger's arm as well as his
" I dare you to arrest me ! I dare you!" But
even in the prospect of success, assurance de-
serted the quadroon, and fear, the ugly, gibber-
ing African fear, took possession of her. " Sir,"
she pleaded to the stranger, "you were with me
at the time. You know I was not here. For
God's sake, don't let them arrest me. It will ruin
me. The property of the boarders lies unpro-
tected in my rooms. My house has never been
visited before by the police. I will furnish bond.
I — Take Palmyre ! Punish her ! Take the
girl. Do what you please with her. Take her !
take her !" Her mind was in a panic. God only
knew what she feared.
The crowd made suggestions. " She is afraid
they will search her house !" " She is afraid her
boarders will be coming in !" " They are gentle-
men who do not like to get their names in the
papers !" " There might be sensations !" " It
will be all up with her then !"
" What are you afraid of ? Do you think I am
going to run away ?" continued Madame Lais.
That must have been it, for the police hemmed
her in, and held her arms, and looked in her
face, and the stranger made no sign of interven-
tion in her favor.
" You want my name ? Here it is."
Ah, she had a choice of names. She had only
to put her hand out and take from the commu-
nity. Who could contradict or deny were they
graven all over her, as they were over the tomb-
stones in the colored cemetery ? But, in extrem-
ity though she was, she was discreet. She gave
a name de circonsfafice. She would save the oth-
ers for the great emergency.
" What is the name of the girl ?"
" The name of the girl .? Let her give her own
name. She can talk."
She was slowly coming to assurance again.
" Make her give the name or send her to the
calaboose." Zizi Mouton jostled and shook the
" Everybody knows her name — Madrilbne, or
Marie IVIadeleine, if you will."
" Marie Madeleine what?"
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 175
"Marie Madeleine ^ — nothing," shrugging her
shoulders. They must understand that, these
" White or colored ?"
A routine question — mere formality, police eti-
quette. But that scream! What made the girl
scream that ? She had often enough been asked
the question, for the girl was light-colored, and
Lais had answered it glibly. She had been asked
about one or two of her own children. What
made Madrilene scream that ? What made her
scream it ? Who put it in her head ? What was
that stranger doing there ? Could he be — And
old Fantome Sacerdote ? Fantome Sacerdote, he
knew her of old — knew her as well as the Collect-
ors and Senators and other official military and
civil dignitaries. And the time was passing. Her
house must be silent, dark, discreet by midnight.
" White or colored ?" the officer of police re-
peated, pencil and note-book in hand.
Who was that stranger ? . . . White ? Oh no !
Say Madrilene was white ! before that crowd !
There was Madrilene herself. " Col — "
Whence came that lean, crooked, bent, black
figure on the floor in front of her ? a little bent
black figure with brilliant snake eyes, and a raised
stick of curling, tAvisting, coiling vines like snakes.
Had the room only been dark that Madame
Lais could not have seen it ! But they were still
fetching in lamps, candles — lights from every-
where. She opened her mouth again to answer,
and she inflated her breast ; her tongue was dry
— a bone — and her breast too heavy to move.
She lifted her head again and again. Always that
voudoo stick raised before her eyes ; always those
voudoo eyes fastened on her face. Why, a glance
from them blighted ! Spells flew around them
like candle bugs ; she was sending them in swarms
now over her : Lais !
White powders and black powders, babies'
bones and snake eggs, and those hideous hobgob-
lins of chicken feathers that come in pillows and
mattresses, rooster combs and crossed keys, the
herbs and grasses, the signs and symbols that
haunt the day; and the black June nights, the
flame of spirits, the coiled serpent, the writhing
dance of naked black forms, the orgiac round
circling in and out of shadows and light, the cast-
ing away of clothes of decency, the " tam tarn " of
the gourd drums, and the monotonous chant —
Lais saw them all in the floor before her, and the
omnipotence of the " Evil One," and the omni-
science of the " old people," and the patient vin-
dictiveness of old Zizi Mouton, setting, setting,
hatching vengeance year after year, and blackness
and fear rolling over and ingulfing her. She felt
her eyes grow haggard, her limbs shake. " My
God! My God!" She beat the air with her
But the devil, the god of Zizi Mouton, he was
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 177
the Stronger god. Lais felt that ; she knew that ;
now, here. The god of the negro against the God
of the white man ! — voudooed ! voudooed ! vou-
And the burden in the stranger's arms — it rose
stiff and stark before her. Was that death in the
long, thin, white face ? Ah, she got white when
she paled ; they could all see that. Were those
staring eyes gazing into eternity.'' At God, or at
her, Lais ? Was that tall, thin, pale white woman
Madrilene, her servant, her drudge .'' Was it
rigor mortis that held that bruised arm extended,
pointing, pointing at her, Lais, those staring eyes
looking at her, those opened falling lips ? Had
Palmyre been voudooed, too, to commit murder?
Had Zizi Mouton brought the gallows, too, to Lais
— the gallows and hell, burning, flaming hell ?
"Colored.? No, no! White! White, I tell
you ! Do you hear me ? White ! Take that
woman away ! Take her away ! Voudoo ! Snake-
charmer ! African !"
Zizi flung Madril^ne's black and white bead
memorial on the floor before the quadroon.
" No, no ! Take her away ! She is not the
daughter of Rosamond Delaunay ! My God ! my
God !" She fell her length, with hysterical wail-
*' Eh, Lais, coquine ! Ta pd paye', chere !"' (Ah,
Lais, rascal ! I have paid you up !)
In the long-worked-for moment of triumph, Zizi
1 78 MADRILENE ;
Mouton renounced her supernatural pretensions
in favor of enjoyment of human revenge.
" The 'coon gets ahead of the nigger when she
is young, but the nigger lives long, and gets even
with the 'coon at last. Didn't I tell you the truth,
monsieur ?" To the stranger. " I was there when
the gentleman died. I knew she was his child.
But I waited — I waited ! Ah, Lais, coquine, you
took my man — hein ? Ta pe paye, chere !"
" White ! White !" Oh, the other cry was
nothing to this ! That one filled a street, this
one the world ! White ! It joined past to fut-
ure. It lifted a being from one race to another.
But it fell like the weakest sigh, this cry from the
lips of Madrilene. This time she did not rise
in her unconsciousness ; she sank down, down,
through sightlessness, dumbness, deafness, to
" Get her to a bed quick !"
" Not in there !" Zizi Mouton arrested them at
the door of Madame LaiVs room. " In the fine
front room! In the fine front bed! Madame
Lais knows why. White young ladies do not
sleep in the bed of negroes." The old voudoo
led them to the bed herself; she undid the
girl's garments, flinging the head-kerchief aside.
" Eh, Lais ! White young ladies do not wear
tignons like negroes ! He, monsieur ! I knew
— I knew all the time, but I waited. Send for
the doctor ; he will know, he will remember. Ask
OR, THE FESTIVAL OF THE DEAD. 179
Fantome Sacerdote ; he will remember ; he buried
him. Rosemond Delaunay, ha ! Who said that ?
Madame Lais !" Sucking the words like sugar
between her toothless gums. " Ah, Lais, coquine,
ta pe paye, chere !"
THE CHRISTMAS STORY OF A LITTLE
THE CHRISTMAS STORY OF A LITTLE
^T was a little ugly brick church, and
H it had been built out of a little ugly
brick house — a cheap, made-over con-
cern. There was hardly a new brick,
a new nail, or a hodful of new mortar
in it. What could possibly be made use of had
been left standing. Of what had been torn down,
the bricks were cleaned, the mortar pulverized
and sifted, and the nails extracted from the joists
and beams : such a spirit of economy reigned in
the erection that even the broken pieces of slate
from the roof were trimmed and put in a pile by
themselves, to use, instead of breaking up a new
one, to fill up a corner or end a row.
The little dago girl from the end of the block
was the indefatigable observer of it all, as if she
wanted to learn the process, and apply it herself,
too, one of these days to the changing of a house
of the devil into a house of the good God. For
that it was a house of the devil no one in the
length and breadth of the town had much doubt
l84 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
— one of those consular buildings of a great
potentate who never fails to provide a representa-
tive in every town. The village must be very
small and insignificant indeed, and blessed, where
there are not more than one of these official resi-
dents, and the villagers not enterprising, or pro-
gressive, as the word goes.
The neighbors had complained of the house,
the servants had gossiped about it ; the very gar-
bage man, looking as if he himself had been fish-
ed out of the garbage of humanity for the office,
grumbled that he had to add its leavings to the
reeking contents of his cart, and when he could,
neglected it, thus insuring a further malodor to
the precincts ; for, as he reasonably explained to
any one who would listen to him, as if corrobo-
rating also a questionable fact about himself, half
drunk as usual, on account of his profession, " I
is a man, if I does drive a dirt-cart."
As everything was used in the building which
could be used, and very little carried away, and
as the former building had been bought at a great
bargain, having, it seems, depreciated the value of
the land upon which it stood and the tone of the
surrounding neighborhood, the conclusion was in-
evitable to the little girl that God was not invest-
ing much money in the affair, perhaps because
He had not much to invest. It was a financial
condition which Marianna understood better than
any other, for the oyster and orange trade slack-
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 185
ened at times to a degree where there seemed to
be no cohesion left, and dago life almost hung
on one cent more or one banana less to the price,
and the street could hardly contain the amount of
Sicilian patois expended to obtain either, when
the little Marianna with her nursling was forced
to wander abroad for the ordinary peace and
comfort necessary to the human mind, dago or
otherwise. It was in this way she saw so much
of the building of the church, and found out
that money was as scarce in heaven as on
" When will it begin to be a church ?" she ques-
tioned herself. The foundations were laid down
and the walls went up, but in no manner differ-
ent from an ordinary dwelling or shop, and no-
wise more churchly. It was evidently to be a
sudden transformation. Afraid of missing the
critical moment, she was at her post, a door-step
opposite, in rain or shine, as regularly as the brick-
layers were at theirs, persistently looking : thanks
to the baby's constitution, she could do it. If it
had been any other baby it would have died long
ago, of croup, or colic, or such great broad teeth,
or ennui, or over-dieting on bananas ; but fortu-
nately there had been no mistake — a regular dago
baby had been sent to the dago family ; one with
black hair and black eyes, and an orange skin
that grew out of dirt into cleanliness like an or-
ange, and demanded (not that it would have got
1 86 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
it for the demand) no expenditure in the way of
" How did the workmen know God wanted a
church built?" "Who paid them ?" " Who gave
them orders ?" " Were the workmen who built
churches different from the workmen who built
dago houses, for instance ?" " Did they feel
they were building a church?" "If they didn't
build it well, what happened to them ?" Marian-
na's mind was constantly occupied with such in-
terrogatories. It was a Sicilian mind, and had
not been subjected to the tamperings of educa-
tion or religion, although public schools offered
the one in every district of the city, and churches
in every parish begged to distribute the other.
Suddenly one day the cross was put upon it, a
gray painted wooden cross ; and then the build-
ing became a church as quick as a flash of light-
ning. One moment before it might have been
taken for a warehouse or a tall stable ; but now
there could be no mistake. The cross said it all,
and said it well. It was the crown of thorns
which changes the face of a simple sufferer into
the face of a Saviour. It was the door-plate
which tells who lives within, and the child sanc-
tified the edifice in her mind accordingly, and,
ugly or little, saw not its proportions nor de-
As for the church itself, if it had not been a
church it must have felt shamed, humiliated, de-
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 187
graded. Not only made of second-hand material,
but completed in such niggardly fashion that with
the exception of the dago cabin, the Chinese
laundry, and the locksmith's shop, it was the
meanest house on the block. The boarding-
house opposite was a palace in comparison, the
freedmen's drinking saloon at the corner more
imposing ; as for the drinking saloons for the
fashionables, on the fashionable street, the paper-
ing of one of them alone would have paid for the
church and the ground underneath, not to men-
tion the mirrors, pictures, marbles, and cellars.
In fact, the little church could look nowhere
from the elevation of its cross and not find in-
deed that, judging from appearances, God was
the very poorest person in all that neighborhood.
There were club-houses around the corner the
initiation fee of which alone was a minister's sal-
ary, and beyond the club-houses the grand bric-a-
brac shops, the milliners' shops, where the body is
clothed and beautified at such a price that the
merest trifles on the counter are doubled in value
to pay for the grandeur of being sold there ; and
still, beyond all this the cross could penetrate and
see other expenditures and displays : it is better
to imitate the ignorance of the little girl, and not
enumerate them. What would become of little
girls in a great city if God did not frustrate the
devil by limiting their comprehension ? for the
prince of darkness holds no intercourse with fools.
100 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
But the cross did see it all, and the little
church, if any knowledge of its pre-existence sur-
vived in its brick and timber, must have thrilled
with joy to think that the cross did stand on top
of it at last — stood up there to watch and to see,
aye, and be seen too, a sign as well as a symbol
If the church could feel this, and the very
wooden cross on top, what must the parson have
felt ! He was small too, so small that he certain-
ly could not have carried his heart, not one day's
work of it, around inside his cassock. He was
insignificant - looking, and as pale as a white-
washed house which the owners cannot afford to
paint. He looked somehow second-hand too,
something thrown away from a different use and
picked up cheap, a made-over sinner. To judge
from his appearance, he also was small recom-
mendation of his employer. Any of the hand-
some, well - dressed gentlemen in the boarding-
house opposite would have made more creditable
ministers ; or any of the clerks in the bar-rooms,
for bar - rooms are more particular about their
ministrants than churches are. Three-fourths of
the men who thronged the bar-rooms were better
equipped physically even when they came home
at night, some of them stumbling against the
electric-light poles. As for the clerks in the oth-
er shops, they were better dressed and better cared
for than the Reverend Herbert Sting, or they would
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 189
not have been employed there. Even his name
was about the poorest and least attractive in all
the catalogue of human appellations, as well as
the most inappropriate, he having wandered far
away from any inheritance of those qualities which
made it a complimentary ancestral title. When
people had objected to his size, figure, color of
his hair, expression of his face, accent, nose, eyes,
clothes, and walk, they filed one more protest
against the whole business and connection by, if
they were women, condemning the incongruous
name of Sting. But he did not recognize this in
the least. He was as unconscious of the objec-
tions against his name as the little Marianna was
of the objections against her neighborhood. He
pursued his way as indomitably as if he had been
called St. Paul or St, Augustine, or the British
peerage rifled to celebrate his aristocracy.
We all know, though the little girl did not,
whence the money and directions came for the
new church building. The primal source, if di-
vine, was a little mixed. The congregation of
the parish, through its official mind, the vestry,
had gradually found out that their church was
simply doing a breaking business ; that while the
new theatre, started on a venture next door, was
paying dividends on its investment, while new
and varied shops multiplied and throve all around,
while each establishment could pay and did pay
for its scores of clerks, its light, full wear and
igo THE CHRISTMAS STORY
tear, and patronage on the increase, their vener-
able granite edifice had to confess to a precarious
income and a diminishing membership, not in a
month fetching as many to a sermon as went in
one evening to the ballet, not in a year taking in
all its alms-basins as much as went into the till
of the least patronized saloon of them all in a
month. They could not, do what the financiering
vestry would, make the two ends meet — the debt
and credit ends — without a break in the middle
to sprout out in another cancerous debt. And so
the fact was no longer to be disguised that the
old church, which had risen out of the early virt-
ues, was slowly sinking under the later vices of
the city — sinking as surely as at one time it was
believed all stone buildings would sink and dis-
appear in the marshy soil of the place. They
reduced and reduced the salary of the minister
until living within it was a feat of prestidigita-
tion ; they lowered and lowered the gas bill until
service became an effort of memory ; as for fires,
the zeal of devotion was all the guarantee the
blood could obtain against rheumatism, neural-
gia, and catarrh ; and then, when these measures
had also reduced the congregation and certified
the financial failure, they determined to sell the
church and transport the proceeds of the whole
establishment into a more progressive, enterpris-
ing district, to plant their cross where souls
would not only come to be saved, but pay for it.
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 191
As for the vicious souls round about who had
neglected their opportunities and obligations,
they were to be left quietly behind in the evacu-
ation, to make what terms they could with the
After a little advertisement and judicious puff-
ing the old church was sold — all sold, with the
ground it stood upon ; its outfit and its infit too,
though this was not mentioned in the deed of
transfer. Its consecration, its dedication, the pi-
ous will of the old gentleman who had bequeathed
the lots to the parish, its memories and associa-
tions, its spirits of dead ministers who had read
and preached from its pulpit, with the spirits of
dead congregations who had sat under them in
the pews ; the graces strengthened by confirma-
tion, the hungers stilled by the Lord's Supper, the
marriage troths plighted at the altar, the baptis-
mal vows taken at the font, and the cold dark place
in front where the dead rested one moment more
in church, amid life, to hear once more the prom-
ise of resurrection, ere they went their way to the
tomb to await its fulfilment — all sold, with the
roofing and flooring and guttering, the glass and
slate and gas fixtures.
" Sold out of house and home on account of
failure in business," the Saviour like any one
Walking around the banquette which had once
encircled the church, day after day, night after
THE CHRISTMAS STORY
night — for the spot had a fascination for him —
the Reverend Herbert had strange thoughts and
fancies, particularly at night, the unreal thoughts
and fancies that spring from unknown seed in
the virgin soil of a young mind.
Did not the stars hanging so low over the
low fiat city, threatening to fall with their v.feight
and brightness into it — did not the stars miss the
tall square steeple which thrust itself up among
them, and made of them jewels to ornament its
weather-beaten head ? And the moon, shedding
its benefaction of light over all buildings alike,
good and bad, humble and rich, did it, in the mo-
notonous expanse of roofs and chimneys, look
for the peaks and gables which it must have been
a delight to gild and beautify ? The sun, rising
damp and red from the marsh, had always sent
its first rays over them, and its last also, as like
a great fire-ball it sank hot and dry into the river.
The atmosphere, once ploughed by the vigorous
bell, had closed in over the space now, and rip-
pled with many sounds and noises, but none
which could have rejoiced it like the brazen
clang which seemed to dissipate the clouds of
rainy Sundays and dominate the violent thunder.
The little minister could always see the church,
however, a ghastly, airy structure, hovering over
the old foundations in purified resurrection, and
he loved to think he could see, though he knew
he could not, the figure of the ancient proprietor,
OF A LITTLE CHURCH,
wandering around his alienated domain incog-
nito like some deposed, ill-treated heir, without
rancor, but in all love and forgiveness looking
after those interests connected with his property,
those entailed possessions which could not be
sold or bartered without his consent : a little sing-
ing beggar-girl, a gambling newsboy, a desperate
v/oman, or an unprincipled man — the outcast, the
cripple, the inebriate. Wherever he imagined
this white - clad, barefooted visitor going, there
went Herbert. He bent over what he saw Him
bend over, he touched what he saw Him touch,
he spoke what he heard Him utter. He accom-
panied Him into places where none but He and
the police could go with impunity, and he minis-
tered with Him at times when no police could
have been paid to remain. He never faltered in
thought or deed. In truth, if all the wickedness
in the world had been stored for deposit in Her-
bert's heart, he could not have known more about
it, been less shocked at it, and if he himself had
invented all loathsome diseases of the soul and
body, he could not have more readily applied the
antidote or suggested the alleviation.
Indeed, in the delirium of agony sufferers
would sometimes take him, the accessory, for his
principal, and so hail and bless him, notwith-
standing the contradiction of his threadbare
clothes and homely features.
As he saw the old church pulled down, the idea
194 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
came to Herbert that another one must be built
in the place of it. The idea came not only to
him, but to all those who could not afford to ride
in the cars to the desirably progressive locality
selected by the vestry for the new church ; to
all those who had attached themselves like cats
to the old locality, for romantic reasons, over
which they, like cats, have no control ; to all the
constitutional kickers against authority, civil or
religious ; to all lukewarm enemies or lukewarm
friends of the empirical vestry; to the Sunday-
school children who felt perhaps, and were, more
aggressive than all. The idea came to a suffi-
cient variety and number to warrant co-operation
in an effort, and the effort was sufficiently vigor-
ous to bring from an idea into being the identi-
cal little church of this story.
It is almost as much labor to destroy as to
build a church. They could not shoot it down
with cannon, they could not burn it down in the
good old way. The carpenters did the best they
could, poor men, with their peaceable instruments
and peaceable hearts, reversing the natural order
of their profession, travelling down from the top-
most spire of the steeple, prizing out posts, chis-
elling out bricks, brick by brick, down to the
foundation. The first tap of the hammer sound-
ed to poor Herbert like a slap on a dead giant's
It was all so solid, so massive, the plan was so
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 195
perfect, the materials so good, the workmanship
so honest! If it had only been a prosperous
church it might have lasted ages. Nothing would
totter, nothing would fall, nothing would even
shake itself loose ; it was a unanimous position
of resisting protest, passive stability : " I can be
destroyed, but I cannot surrender."
At last it was all taken down, and the dismem-
bered parts buried, contractors only knew where,
second-hand stuff from churches fetching no
higher price than from any other edifice. The
space was cleared and swept, and with bright new
material a grand circus was erected in it, a show
and a wonder to the banquette idlers. The ring
was described in what had been the body of the
church, the trapezes hung from the ceiling, the
orchestra sat in the old altar. Through the doors
on the side, where surpliced boys and ministers
used to march singing, the horses pranced and
clowns tumbled and velocipede girls whirled. A
grand novelty circus, so it was, a magnificent cir-
cus, and patronized by such numbers that man-
agers and performers were not only paid, but mu-
nificently paid, and were making a happy fortune
out of it. So much so that if the church people
had only had the wit to do themselves that which
they had sold out for others to do, they would
have been able to construct a grand cathedral in
the new fashion locality, and paid people well for
196 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
The circus was octagonal, with arched sides,
and under every arch were places of attractive
resort of all kinds, and so attractive that at night
frightened inhabitants screamed, whistled, rattled
in vain for policemen, until some volunteer would
hasten thither and fish the officer of justice out
of one of the octagonal rooms, as surely as a boy
in spring-time fishes larvte out of a wasp's nest.
The minister thought many a time what a mi-
raculous draught St. Peter would make again if
he could but cast his net over the whilom place
of worship !
When the little dago girl had nothing more
to look at, when walls, roof, floor, and cross were
in place, pews carried in, shavings and blocks car-
ried out, workmen dismissed, she naturally con-
cluded that the church was completed and ready
for the abode of Him to whom it belonged. She
knew no more of the inside workings of a
church than of the inside workings of a clock,
and Herbert was very little wiser than the child,
for it was his first church. The quantity of
springs and machinery necessary was indeed
enough to surprise and confuse a tyro. The
ladies came in, whence neither he nor any one
else could tell ; they swarmed about the church
like insects about sugar ; only they possessed
what insects lack, organization. By authority of
what tradition, by order of what transmissions
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 197
or laying on of hands, in what version of the
Testament, Old or New, they read their title
and commission, or whether they had any au-
thority, divine or human, for it at all, whether
the whole legislation was not an unwarranted
act of assumption, Herbert did not question or
investigate the matter. He quietly submitted,
and with his church bowed under the guild to
whose mysterious care the parish had by occult
power been confided. The guild was composed of
chapters, and the chapters were so numerous that
every active worker was fractionally represented in
them, to look after some fractional division of the
church, the service, and the minister. It takes a
very large church to woman all its chapters, and
provide meeting-places for them. Judge how the
little church was taxed for both, when they all came
together — condensed, as it were — on special occa-
sions : Building, Altar, Vestment, Choir, Library,
Sunday-school, Industrial School, Mission, Visit-
ing chapters, with presidents, vice-presidents, sec-
retaries, treasurers, and members. They atoned
for the smallness of their number by the multitude
of their opinions ; they represented not a volume,
but a library of dissenting sentiments worthy the
greatest church in the land. There were just
about days enough in the week to contain the
meetings, and none left over for pacification, ex-
cept Sunday, which grew in importance as a kind
of " Truce of God," without which church busi-
THE CHRISTMAS STORY
ness would have been an unfinished story. For
instance, whoever crossed Mrs. Bunnyfeather in
the Altar Chapter, crossed the secretary of the
Choir, the president of the Visiting, the treasurer
of the Sunday-school, and the vice-president of
the Library chapters, and broke a quorum in all
the other chapters. And when Mrs. Goodenough
(which is a name the constitution should forbid)
was made to weep by unkind remarks over the
laundrying of the Reverend Herbert's one vest-
ment — a shrunken, narrow, transparent surplice
— parliamentary rules were suspended by accla-
mation until the sensitive lady was soothed and
the remarker rebuked, for it was an early Monday
morning, and never a meeting could have been
held during the week. After he had learned by
practice and discipline to steer clear of organiza-
tions, the young minister found that he could not
walk from portal to pulpit without tripping against
individual solicitude. The motherly ones were
always there to tender advice, the sisterly ones to
ask it ; and poor as he was pecuniarily, and thin
and miserable to look at, there was not a mother
among them who did not accuse some other moth-
er of trying to catch him for a daughter, and not
a sister whose heart did not occasionally beat
with ill-feeling against some other sister on ac-
count of him.
But though to the pastor they all appeared to
be pulling in as many diiTerent directions as there
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. igg
were names in the chapters, the general tenden-
cy was forward, and the new little church was
jerked and pulled and tugged along through Oc-
tober, November, and into December without more
than one serious stalling a week, and a jar a day.
If they had not been women, and the man a Her-
bert, it would have jolted into some big rut and
stayed there forever, a wreck on time, and never
have reached December at all, not to speak of
The little Marianna had changed her position.
She had crossed over the street, and now sat with
the baby in her arms in a corner of the stone steps.
Sheltered from the rain, there was little cold to
dread ; the bright blue sky overhead was as Sicil-
ian as her own hair and features. She silently
watched the entrances and exits of the young
priest, as she called him, the assembling and dis-
banding of the various yet unvaried committees,
theorizing, perhaps, on the passers-by, who seem-
ed to be arbitrarily separated in kind and degree
by the different hours of the day, and walked
along in their different costumes on their differ-
ent avocations, as if fulfilling some predestined
fate rather than individual volition. The passers-
by must have theorized about her. Immovably
constant, she was to them as fixed in her place
as if she had been built there with the church, or
sculptured and set up for ornament. A pretty
ornament, and not inappropriate, for she had
200 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
the proper turn of the neck, the proper droop
of the shoulders, the sweet, modest, soft eyes,
and the proper clasp of the arms around an in-
fant which God has given to her nation that sculpt-
ors might have a model, that painters might paint,
and mankind know the portrait of the Madonna.
The young priest sat almost as immovably in-
doors when the church business was all transact-
ed, the chapters all gone, and he and the good
Lord were in the way of no one except Mrs. Bun-
nyfeather, who worried over his conduct, think-
ing it altogether inexplicable, if not improper, not
to mention Romanistic, necessitating a new chap-
ter — Ministerial Conduct.
One evening in December, at the time when
the sinking sun made rainbows through the west-
ern windows, and his thoughts travelled easiest
the heavenward journey, a woman rushed up the
aisle of the church to the altar, a pale, wild-eyed
woman, holding a bundle in her arms.
"Will you christen her, sir.? — will you christen
her? For God's sake christen her, to save her
soul !" She held the bundle towards him, and
began to untie, unwind, untwist it, with fingers
all disobedient and astray as to their proper vo-
cations, and so slow that her feet began to give
way, and she would have fallen on her hopelessly
entangled bundle if the minister had not caught
it with one hand, while with the other he eased
her to the ground.
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 201
" I'm only dizzy, sir — I'm only dizzy and weak.
I've just been discharged from the Charity Hos-
She lay back against the steps of the altar and
closed her eyes. Shade after shade of gray and
blue pallor palled over her thin, pinched features.
Her long limbs lay as stiff and straight under her
calico gown, as they had lain under the sheets of
her cot at the hospital. And as she vibrated
back and forth in and out of unconsciousness her
cheek sank wearily against the step, as if it were
a soft pillow, or turned away from it, repulsed by
the coldness of the timber. She did not attempt
to rise nor to look at him, but talked along
dreamily, almost deliriously.
" The Sisters would have christened her, but I
wouldn't let them. They would have put her in
one of their asylums. The Sisters would have
christened her and put her in an asylum. The
Sisters — "
She became conscious of the repetitions of her
tongue, and by a struggle raised herself to a sit-
ting posture and relieved her thoughts.
There is no telling how old a sick woman is.
As she lay on the ground she looked weazened
and shrivelled ; yet her way of hiding her face in
her arm, and her petulant opposition, were very
" There's no need for her to be damned too, is
there, sir ?"
202 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
The face that looked out from the shawl was
as old as the mother's, and so red and wrinkled,
and with such an unpromising outlook for the
soul, that the minister felt he could assume the
responsibility of a decided negative.
" They said she was a fine child ; Tm sure she's
very pretty; don't you think so, sir?"
There was a huge stone font, which the guild
had begged from a pious stone-cutter. It was
as large as a child's bath-tub, and not unlike one
in shape — a font in which babies by the half-dozen
could have been immersed. And there was a
small pitcher of water which the kind old colored
sexton daily placed in a corner of the choir for the
minister's refreshment. As careless of the ritual
as the Saviour had been before him in all his cer-
emonies, ignoring the printed requirements of his
prayer-book, and trespassing against ecclesiasti-
cal etiquette in almost every word and gesture,
Herbert administered the rite, humbly praying
on his own behalf, at the end of it, that the good
Lord would stand by him on the last day, when
his bishop, before which dignitary ministers like
Herbert are the worms of the earth, should find
out the full irregularity of the proceeding.
"What is her name?" he asked, not in the
formal conventional tone, for he did not venture
to bring the dignity of the Church into the trans-
action ; it was only a matter of a fortnight-old
soul, between the Lord and himself.
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 203
The woman had risen. He saw now that she
was really young, and had been pretty.
"Oh, sir," with a twist of her head, "do you
think Daisy would be too good for her ? Daisy
is such a beautiful name ! I read about a Daisy
once in a novel."
Decidedly she was very young. He christened
her Daisy, and cast about for some saint with
whom he might take a liberty. He remembered
his mother, a saint, though not jn the calendar;
her name was Elizabeth ,• so he made up " Daisy
Elizabeth," and for what an informal baptism was
worth the little child in his arms lay indebted.
" I can carry her now, sir ; I was only a little
weak. I should have left the hospital yesterday ,
my time was up ; but the Sisters wouldn't let me.
It was raining, so they made me stay one day
She was standing right in a rainbow, looking
through the colors younger and younger, prettier
and prettier ; the church was already beginning
to get dark in the corners.
" The Sisters were very kind ; they would have
put her — But I was an asylum girl myself,
Oh, the mother-lack and the father-lack in that
plaintive confession ! It sounded through the lit-
tle church like a wail from all the sun-bonneted,
uniformed little girls foredoomed to heart misery
in asylums. She turned, and with uncertain feet,
204 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
unaccustomed to her light weight, went out of the
It was a fiction of his imagination, and he knew
it; but if the good Lord had been there, He would
have followed her, would have taken the young
woman under the arm and conveyed her to a
sure, comfortable retreat, just as Herbert thought
he saw Him do, just as Herbert did himself.
There were questions to be asked, information
statistically useful to be obtained. As a clergy-
man he was empowered to satisfy his curiosity ;
but he had none. Why should he surmise six-
teen instead of knowing it .'' why steadfastly over-
look her marriage finger ? — who she was ? — what
she was ? — a little woman with a child — a new
mother in the world with a pathetic body stagger-
ing from the ordeal, and a heart most carefully,
most femininely concealed.
She walked rapidly, trying to look business-
like, trying to deceive people. But the white
women they met looked their comments ; the
black ones uttered theirs coarsely with laughter,
glad to find a flattering equality of vice ; and the
men — she shrank and winced at every one that
passed, clinging more and more helplessly to the
arm that supported her.
The sun, as usual, had saved cityfuls of warmth
and brightness for Christmas week, and was up
bright and early Christmas Eve, eager to com-
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 205
mence the donation. In the gardens the bushes
had still a reserve stock of flowers all ready to
blossom out when the sun gave the signal. May
must have effected a change with December ; for
if ever a bright, joyous, exhilarating, bouncing
May rushed in rosy and laughing, among the
months of the year with exaggerations of warmth,
show, glitter, sunshine, and blue sky, that month,
or week of it, came on the 24th of December to
a certain city, and fell all in a heap around a cer-
tain church. And the largesses of nature were
imitated, if not surpassed, by the people. All the
poor had to do was to name their menu for Christ-
mas dinner, and they got it, and the older, the
poorer, the uglier, the more disreputable, the more
certainty of getting it. Christmas-trees sprouted
in every asylum, and if ever orphans had occa-
sion to forget the loss of parents they had it that
night. Sunday-schools, yielding and consenting,
finally embraced foolishness, and spent money
hoarded for foreign missions on cakes, candy, and
lemonade for the heathen at home. Santa Claus
was expected ubiquitously in all the hospitals in
the city at once, and anticipation thwarted ano-
dynes in the children's wards. The generous gave
until they almost destroyed all prospects for future
giving; the mean and stingy gave ; even the rich
and fashionable gave. The commercial exchanges
all gave, and the clubs almost got a majority in
favor of the annual motion for a grand newsboys'
206 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
dinner. The butchers sent complimentary roasts,
the grocers cordials, the confectioners bonbons,
to their customers. From the city went oysters,
oranges, and good wishes to the country; the
country responded also with eggs and monstrous
turkey-gobblers. There may have been some un-
fortunates who did not receive, but there were
none who did not yield to the season, climate,
and the prodigality of their natures by giving. If
there were any babies born on Christmas Eve —
and there must be some, for it is said they are
born half-minutely all over the world — and if they
had any recollection whatever of the blessed king-
dom they had left, they must have stifled their
sharp birth-cry of disappointment, pain, and re-
gret , for this spot of earth was so full of good-
will, so bright, so redolent of flowers and peace,
that they could not have been otherwise than
glad to come here.
" But," thought Herbert, walking his beat from
the old church to the new, " the reachings of
money are limited. There are other wants that
need other currency. Empty hearts may be hung
like empty stockings on Christmas-trees this night
which no Santa Claus is coming to fill — the
mother who sits by an empty cradle, the husband
who stretches out his arms in the dead of night
for his absent wife, and the wife swathing her
bleeding heart in widow's weeds. The old pen-
sioners, looking around vainly in their eleemosy-
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 207
nary shelter for comrade, kith and kin, to pass
the feast-night, chide death for tarrying. The
old maid, my cousin Ruth, who sits in a grudging
home sewing for another's children, who mock at
her loneliness and lovelessness, sees, alas ! the
vision of her own children that might have been !
And the old bachelor sitting in his club window,
drinking whiskey-and-water to keep up his spir-
its and frighten away the ghosts of the past, the
realities of the present, his sordidness, meanness,
selfishness, what exorcism does he exercise against
them ? An asylum boy or a sick child in the hos-
pital is happier on Christmas Eve than he !"
Night had fallen as low as it could over the
broad brilliant street. The tall electric - light
poles held the darkness aloof like a canopy over
a saturnalia. The deep, narrow shops from un-
der their beetling galleries gleamed out Golcon-
da splendors. In the show-windows jewels and.
precious metals, brocades and laces, pictures, por-
celains, fans, feathers, and crystals, were displayed
as mere advertisements of the greater beauties
within. Violets, roses, and jasmines mingled
their fragrance on the flower corner, and almost
beautified— so sweet and fresh they were — the
withered, faded faces of their venders, the flower-
girls of half a century ago. The banquettes held
their usual kirmess of nations : white, black, yel-
low, in rags, in silks, in velvets, old, young, mid-
dle-aged, handsome and hideous, and a babel of
203 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
tongues that taxed the versatility of the noisy
itinerant peddlers with their new stock of wares,
impudence, and wit for Christmas Eve.
Christmas was setting in in earnest, the trop-
ical, maddening, typical Christmas of the place ;
Christmas that comes but once a year, to make
good the long, dull, hot days of summer ; to defy
the chill, pleasureless days of old age ; to remind
young and old of the shortness of life and the
sweetness of it. The horn -blowing had com-
menced, too — all sorts of horns, blown by all sorts
of lips : great horns, borne on the shoulders of
tall men, bestridden by manikins, and blown by a
united effort ; little horns tooted by street raga-
muffins, impudently blown in the faces or mali-
ciously blown in the ears of the dignified and un-
wary ; horns by scores, by fifties, by hundreds,
matching the lights by tlieir multitude, involving
ears as well as eyes in their confusion ; joyous,
melancholy, melodious, and discordant horns ;
horns that produced tunes, and horns that were
barren of all but noise ; exciting, fretting, whip-
ping up the blood, kindling it like tinder, sending
it off in screams and explosions like the fire-
crackers that danced on the streets under the
horses' feet. And the subtle nocturnal influences ;
the excitation of money- spending, the delicious
consciousness of losing self-control, the extrava-
gances, the unrestricted expressions, the hilarity,
the equalities, the friction of humanity, the gro-
OF A LITTLE CHURCH.
tesque banquette procession, where out of strange
faces gleamed eyes bright with incipient conta-
gion of vicious blood : it was Christmas with a
latent symptom of orgy in it !
Herbert looked not above for the aerial spires
of the old church, nor about for the Vision which
usually guided his steps ; it was not His hour yet.
He hastened on and around the corner, and reach-
ed his own little church. His hand was on the
door to close it. " Should every house be open and
hospitable on this His birth-night and not His
own sanctuary ? Who am I, that I should selfishly
be His only guest ?" He propped it wide open, as
if for service, and entered the gray gloom inside.
The electric light over the way threw a mild radi-
ance up the aisle to the steps of the chancel, gar-
nished for the morrow's feast.
The labors of all the committees of ladies had
ended, and so, he hoped, had their wranglings
over the decorations. The wranglings were not
to be charged to their discredit, for the excite-
ment of the day was upon them, and the vexing
contrast between the poverty of their own and
the wealth of other churches. Their hearts (fool-
ish women's hearts) hankered after possibilities
beyond attainment, their spirits grieved over the
acute disappointment of what could not be, and
their tongues became partisans and disseminators
of discontent. If the motto had been " Discord
and Ill-will," instead of the contrary, it would
2IO THE CHRISTMAS STORY
have been far more appropriate to the state of
mind whicli pervaded the discussions as to where
it should be hung.
He had a lamp in the choir and books for
evenings when he felt inclined to pursue the vast
science of theology, of which he was so lamentably
ignorant. He waited to-night, however, until his
eyes had become accustomed to the quieting ob-
scurity and his ears delivered of the noisy aban-
donment of the street sounds in the church.
It was not to be denied that the preparations
were meagre, hardly less so than those on the
original night in the stable. Nothing but greens
and mosses from the swamp, to be got at the
small expense of hiring a cart to haul them in.
They garlanded the rails and table and desk and
the huge font, which resembled, indeed, a veritable
manger. The dimly transparent windows, three
on each side, piercing the thick walls, looked with
their pendent wreaths like marble tablets with
funereal cypress memorials to the dead. The
effect would not have been festal were it not for
the star. It shone over the altar on a shield of
green — the donation and triumph of Mrs. Good-
enough, the humiliation of Mrs. Bunnyfeather. A
beautiful star (frosted with some glistening pow-
der), a white, radiant, diamond star, a gleaming
spirit star, a silvery effigy of the joyous living
ones in the heavens outside, shining on its green
shield as if from the cavernous mouth of some
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 211
subterranean mystery. For it did shine and gleam
and glisten in the dark damp church for all the
world as its celestial prototype shone and gleam-
ed and glistened in the East above the trackless
desert to the astonished eyes of watching shep-
herds. Whether helped thereto by unseen celes-
tial sources or by some reflected, refracted con-
tribution from outside electricity, or whether it
burned with an effulgence cleverly contrived by
Mrs. Goodenough, it was the star's own secret
where the illuminating power came from; and the
eloquence, too, with which it spoke to the little
minister, speaking as it spoke nineteen centuries
ago, driving him to his knees as it drove the shep-
herds to their feet, forcing him to bow his head
and hide his face in the moist, odoriferous leaves
of the chancel rail — that was the star's secret, too.
" Out of the niglit.
Into the light,
Star of Bethlehem, lead !"
A band of negro singers paused on the steps
outside, trying their voices together before start-
ing on their Saturday night round, stringing their
improvised rhymes to suit the occasion, careless-
ly hitting or missing the sense to satisfy sound,
the accordion playing an interminable pulsating
" Out of the soil,
Out of the toil.
Star of Bethlehem, lead !"
212 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
They walked away, the weird, thrilling falsetto,
a ventriloquial voicing of a distant woman's
plaint, griped the heart like a spasm. Fainter
and fainter they sang, keeping step down the
street, trailing the tune after them long after the
words were swallowed up in the blare of horns,
the fusillade of fire-crackers, and the indistinct
murmur of tumult that surged and rolled like a
" Let us stand in here, Harry ; I can tell you
better. There's such a din out there. It's a
church — a little church."
A woman led the way in, more at home, as
women are, in churches. She caught the man by
the hand and drew him up the aisle, in the path
of light, out of danger of overhearing or being
seen from the street.
" It's a church, but God knows we mean no
harm or disrespect." She had the soft accent of
English that has grown alongside of French. She
barely came up to his shoulder — not that she was
so small, but he was so tall. He had length,
breadth, and strength in him for two men.
" Well, what is it, Janey ?"
His low voice was rich and sweet with love and
premature concession. He must have taken both
her hands in his while he said it.
" No, no, Harry ; don't touch me. I — "
Now that the time was come, she did not know
how to begin it. Should she begin it at all ? How
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 213
sweet not to ! To go on and on in uncertainty,
but in love ; to vacillate another fortnight, and
then another, to temporize !
" Is it about to-morrow, Janey ?"
" Yes, Harry." She was more resolute than
her voice. " I want to tell you I can't; indeed I
can't. You must give me back my word ; I can-
not keep my promise."
" Janey ! Janey ! are you in earnest ?"
" It's no use, Harry ; I've tried and tried. I
thought I would be able to do my duty to both ;
but it's no use. I made up my mind to-day, and
Christmas is as good a time as any. When I
saw everybody to-day so pleasant and happy —
ah, me !" She stopped a moment. " It's been
before me for some time. To go away from the
children now is simply to give them over to the
bad ; the only chance for them to be better is for
me to stay w.ith them. I've waited and waited
with hope and courage ; I'm at the end of both ;
and I thought that Louisa one day would make
an effort ; but she has less thought, less industry,
than ever. I thought that father would^ The
boys, I mean — the boys are getting worse and
worse. Never a day but I expect to be called
home by some dreadful messenger, ever since
Johnnie was run over by the dummy. They
curse ; they smoke ; they run the streets from
morning till night; they will not go to school;
they will not do anything but hang around the
214 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
corner groceries and theatres. It will be drink-
ing next, I suppose ; and gambling and pistols
and knives, if not the gallows at the end !"
" Why, Janey, Janey, little woman !"
" No, Harry. The time has come for me to do
something about it. I fear I have not done my
duty. It rises before me at night, when I go to
bed, that it might all have been different. In-
stead of working out, I should have worked at
home. My thoughts go too much to you ; they
should all go to them. How can I think of leav-
ing them forever ! Who would feed them ? Who
would look after them ? What would become of
them ? What would become of my peace of mind ?"
" Bring them all with you, Janey ! bring them
all with you !"
" No, Harry ; you know I cannot ; I will not
do that. Besides, there's father. There's only
one thing to do. I must give up trying to do
two things. God has settled my life for me. He
has put those children in my charge, and father.
And, Harry, you must find some one else to be
your wife, some one who can bring more to you
than I — more heart, more time, more youth, more
beauty, less disgrace and shame. If it had been
different ! Harry, it is harder on me than on you !
Harry, Harry, you should help me out !"
She would not let him touch her, but all the
time her hands were holding fast to his arms, to
his hands, travelling over the front of his coat.
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 215
He did not help her out at all, listening to her
speech in dull, dazed silence.
"Instead of getting married to-morrow as I
promised, we must part ; and — and it is better I
should never see you again." Through the in-
coherence of mind and thought there was a driv-
ing determination in her mind which urged her
on with desperate recklessness of the pain in her
heart and the pain in his. " May God keep and
bless you, Harry ! and may some other woman
love you as I do, and be to you what I cannot!''
She raised herself on tiptoe, and put her hands
up to his face, her fingers sinking in his soft
bushy beard. She pulled him down to her, seek-
ing his lips in the dark with her lips, and kissed
him once, twice.
" Janey ! Janey ! If you throw me off, you
throw me to the devil !"
" Harry ! Harry !" she screamed ; " don't, don't
say that !"
She put her arms out again towards him ; he
was gone. " Harry !" She ran out of the church
after him, down the steps, up the street ; he was
nowhere to be seen. She crossed from one side
street to the other, looking for the tall, straight,
burly figure. She heard a step behind her, and
paused ; it sounded familiar ; she had to press
her hands down over her beating heart.
" My pretty one !"
She struck at the proffered hand and leering,
2l6 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
unknown face. " If Harry were only there to
protect her !"
In her flight from insult she instinctively aban-
doned her search, and breathless, trembling, flew
Harry had only turned aside in the vestibule,
avoiding her in the dark as she ran after him.
He came back into the church, and sat on a bench.
He knew so little about women, though he
knew and loved one.
He bent his head down on his crossed arms,
swaying his body from side to side under the
mastery of passion which took the form of un-
governable rage, and swept all his reticence away.
" Curse it all ! — all ! — her father, her family —
throw me off ! — like a dog ! — pretend to love me !
Lies ! lies ! lies ! I'll make her repent ! I'll — "
A light touch fell on his shoulder. It was not
Janey, although it was a figure not any larger, a
voice fully as soft and tender.
" Harry," said the minister — he knew no other
name to call him by — " I heard it all, and — "
" I don't care who heard it ! I don't care if
the whole city heard it, from Carrollton to the
" Hush ! you have forgotten she told you this
was a church."
"I'll leave it. What did she bring me here
for ? I'll get out of it. I'll go on the street."
"Will you go after her ?"
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 21?
" I go after her ? I speak to her ? May God —
I'll cut her on the street ! I never want to lay
eyes on her again ! I'll disgrace her ! I'll drink,
He could think of nothing more certain to hurt
her than injury to himself.
" I'll go to the devil ! Oh, she'll regret it !
She'll repent it !"
"Why should she do it?"
"Why! why! I know why. They've bedeviled
her and pestered her at home till she's 'most crazy.
They've worked her till she's got no heart, body,
nor soul left. They've dragged her down and
down till her pride is gone, and she's ashamed
even of me. Some of the brats have done some-
thing — the devil himself isn't up to more rascal-
ity than they — or her old daddy has gone on an-
other spree, been locked up, or kept her up all
night abusing her. Her wages are used up, and
this Christmas Eve, when all the world is a-pleas-
uring and frolicking, she must go home and sew
till daylight to buy bread and meat for them.
It's — it's — " His temper rose with a sudden
bound. " Is't a hell, this world? — the whole
The pews shook under the stroke of his clinched
"You love her, then?" Herbert alone knew
whether it were a question or a logical conclusion
in his own mind.
2l8 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
"Love her? I swear to you, sir, as God Al-
mighty hears me, I never loved any woman on
earth but her, and she knows it. I never shall
love any other woman. I ain't given to talking
about it. I couldn't even tell her. There's no
one knows it or understands it but myself. If I
were to think of it, sir, I wouldn't work another
lick. She isn't pretty, and she doesn't look
young any more, and she's worked to a shadow ;
but God knows, if I was on my death-bed, and
life would be given me to marry the prettiest girl
in the world and not her, I'd turn my face to the
wall and die. I want her ! I want her!"
His face went again into his arms.
" And to think she could throw me off like a
dog ! I might just as well go> and jump into the
river. It's the end of it all. It is not the look
that is in her, sir." He was up again and talking.
" It is the look about her. It's the pale face and
the sad eyes; it's the poor, thin, tired little body
I want to ease. It's her little slim feet I want to
hold tight and still in my one hand. It's her
little mite of hands I want to give a holiday to."
He could feel her little hands passing over his
face, her fingers in his beard; the tears gushed
in his eyes. " I wish I was dead and buried and
out of it all."
" It would be different," he continued, after a
silence — the minister was so motionless at his
side it was the same as talking to himself — "It
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 219
would be different if I thought she was going to
be happy, or comfortable, or anything like; but
my mules — I drive a float, sir — have a better time
than her. From morning till night she's going
on not enough fodder to keep a bird, and not as
much ease and peace as a penitentiary convict.
Her father's a sot, that's all. They used to be
very respectable and high-minded before he took
to drinking. He worked in a cotton-press. There
seems to be no end to his sinking now; it would
be a God's mercy if he would drown in a gutter,
or be knocked over by some of his drunken
gang. I wonder she don't take to drink, too ! If
I were a woman with as little chance as her I
would. But no, she'll work and work and kill her-
self — and that will be the end of it all. They've
been at her again ; they've had a scene ; I could
see she'd been crying. She doesn't know what
to do, so she flings me over, the only friend she's
got in God's wide world. And that ain't going
to make it easier, as she thinks. It will kill her.
Mule nature couldn't stand it, let alone woman
" I'd fixed it all. We Avere to go off somewhere
to-morrow and get married without any one know-
ing it. I was afraid they'd get at her — the chil-
dren. I've told her over and over again I'd take
care of the children like — like children of my
own," He stammered, for the comparison with
him had ceased to be conventional. " Good for
220 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
nothing as the children are, she loves 'em as if
she were their mother, and his own wife wasn't
as patient with him as she is with that whiskey
barrel of a father of hers. I 'ain't got any use
for him, and she can't help seeing it ; that's
what hurts her. She ought to have had the
best and proudest father in this city, that's a
fact ; and God ought to have done better by
" Great Scott ! to go around all day Christmas
Vv'ith the feeling in my heart that Janey was my
legally married wife ! My sweet, sad, tired, dainty
bit of a Janey ! And no one know it — not a soul
— until evening came and time to go home.
'Janey, my wife, come home!' Paradise would
have been a fool to this earth then; and if any
man would have dared say it wasn't a merry
Christmas, I'd have knocked him down. Yes,
sir, I would. It's all ready and waiting for her —
my little shanty. I haven't slept in my room
since she promised me ; I was afraid of soiling or
mussing something. I've slept out in the stables
with the mules. I own two teams, sir ; six of the
finest mules in the city, and have paid for them
too, every cent. I'll never sleep in that room
again. I'll eat and drink and sleep with the
mules the rest of my life; and this is the last bit
of paper that will ever carry the name of Harry
Farren to marry any woman !"
He pulled the license out of his pocket, and
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 221
would have torn it, but Herbert took it out of his
" Out of the sin,
Out of the din,
Babe of Bethlehem, lead !"
The singers, passing again, had increased their
following. A battalion's tread resounded on the
pavement. The rhymes taken up from the front
were repeated down the line, falling off with the
squeaking mimicry of gamins' voices, out of hear-
ing and jurisdiction of the accordion.
"... You want to go to the devil this night ?
The devil, no doubt, will give you opportunities
enough," began the minister.
" Out of the dust,
Out of the lust,
Babe of Bethlehem, lead !"
A shout hailed the locally and timely success-
ful hit of the couplet, and the contribution of a
stentorian basso was sung with continued and
Harry, nevertheless, could hear what the min-
ister said, faint and low as the tones were. If it
had been of a Sunday or daylight, and from pulpit
to congregation, he might have recognized it as a
sermon; the disguise now, by time and circum-
stances, was so complete that at the end of it he
stepped into the street unconscious that he had
been quietly and obediently listening to one.
222 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
However deficient in morality, even according
to the naturally lenient statement of their eldest
sister, the little Wiggenses were not to any per-
ceptible degree wanting in intelligence where
their own interests were concerned. They did
not expect Santa Claus, like the sun, to smile on
the just and unjust alike; indeed, their own past
Christmas-treeless experience gave the lie to such
an expectation, but they did hope this year to
manage, or, as they put it, "get ahead of him."
As he only came once a year and stayed but a
short while, they determined to test their strength
and his perspicacity by a short, sharp trial of
goodness. With handsome munificence, they can-
celled from their minds all remembrance or even
knowledge of past naughtinesses, calculating that
by conduct superlatively exemplary for one night
and day they would refute for once, if not for all,
the calumny of the neighbors, who persisted that
the " Wiggenses didn't know what good was,"
and render themselves worthy candidates for
those largesses which they understood fell only
to the obedient and pious. Their devices to this
end were varied and endless.
Johnnie — called "Tipple" — whose foot had
been amputated by the dummy, that special re-
warder of bad boys, took the initiative. He
begged, entreated, commanded, that he should
be tied in bed, tied with a borrowed clothes-line,
and so restrained from hopping around on the
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 223
floor on his one foot, to the killing amusement of
his sister and six brothers, and the exasperation
of the unfortunate young practitioner who at-
tended him — an individual who had far more char-
ity than brains. Johnnie also requested and in-
structed them to put a head on him at the first
indication of gab on his part to the old stick-in-
the-mud doctor, and called them all to witness
that they might depose when the time came that
since that morning he had not loosened the band-
ages to see, himself, how the stump was getting on,
or to show them, though he assured them they
might beg him on their knees to do it. And
the brothers and sisters were not to be outdone,
though it went hard with them, for every day
the doctor's visit was funnier in virtue of new
original impromptu variations. Instead of hid-
ing behind doors to squeak and scratch and
whisper " Rats !" when the young man made his
appearance, asking him, when he went, about his
" ma," requesting a loan of five dollars, or a ci-
gar for a light, pinning fragments of newspaper
to his coat-tails, and calling "Extra!" behind him
down the street, or by opposition show and vari-
ety dancing behind his back frustrate his at-
tempts to gain Johnnie's attention — instead of
this daily performance, which, as noted, was nev-
er more delightful, they wished the doctor "good-
morning " with such decorous politeness of tone
and manner, and were so successful in their hy-
224 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
pocrisy generally, that the poor young fellow,
having the infection of the day upon him, went
directly from the house to a fruit-stand, and bought
all the oranges, apples, and bananas he could not
afford, ordering them to be delivered in sure se-
crecy and mystery the next morning, that Santa
Claus, the scape-goat of other people's generosity,
should get the merit of it. And more recklessly
still, he opened a credit, on what assets he alone
knew, and bought a crutch, which was also to be
delivered anonymously to Johnnie. He was a
country lad, and had not quite learned city ways
Time never fell so heavy on the hands of the
Wiggenses before ; they found good days much
harder to fill than naughty ones ; in fact, there
was no comparison between the ease of finding
occupation for the one and for the other. The
short and merry life of the wicked is not merely
a figurative expression.
Janey's little cupboard of a room was always
securely locked against them, but their own apart-
ment offered as fair a field for reform as for
depredation. They swept and dusted it, not
once, but a score of times, until the borrowed
broom was recalled and a renewal of the loan
peremptorily refused. They washed their faces
and combed their hair for months in advance.
They tied and retied Johnnie in his bed, each
one separately, according to some new Individ-
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 225
ual idea of comfort and security, in such high
good-humor all the time, laughing and shouting
with such boisterous hilarity, that they made
themselves, if possible, more annoying than ever
to the neighborhood, until, long as the day was,
it began undeniably to draw to a close. Louisa,
the eldest of this set of Wiggenses (Janey be-
longed to a long -forgotten first wife), had be-
thought herself at the last moment of washing
her frock. It was done standing, and going at
the dirty spots singly all around the skirt ; and
now, being energetic in any undertaking, the
basin being handy, with water and soap, she had
just completed the same satisfactory task for her
hair. She stood in the centre of the room shaking
her long, dripping red locks over the floor, for-
getting her object in fascination of the elegant
variegated pattern which, with a little care, she
could design all over the dusty surface. They
had had an idea of scrubbing the floor at one
time, but now rejoiced over the abandonment
" Make it go round and round like shells, sis,"
suggested Bobbie, in envious admiration.
" No. I tell you, diamonds, diamonds is the
prettiest. It's too dry ; go get some more water
" Pshaw ! now it's too wet."
" You ought to hire yourself out for a waterin'-
226 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
** Or a whitewash brush."
"A yellow-wash brush you mean." Johnnie
always was the wittiest of all.
" It must feel funny to have all that stuff on
" Suppose a horse had his tail tied on his head ?"
" Let's cut it off, sis — eh ? Just to see how you
look without it."
" Geewhillikins ! I could laugh till I bust.
Janey she thinks I'm smoking cigar stumps round
by the Academy, just 'cause she told me particu-
lar not to."
Bobbie swaggered up and down, smoking an
imaginative cigar stump, his hands under an im-
" I reckon she's traipsing round now, looking
for me everywhere." Louisa swung and switched
her hair superciliously. " She seems to think I
can't never stay at home."
" She'll just keel over when she sees me a-lyin'
here all tied up," said Johnnie, pulling himself
together to make his bonds tighter, glancing down
at the immaculate bandages over his ankle.
" Tell us how it felt when it was a-coming off,
"Oh, tell us once more."
" It felt a — " prompted Louisa.
" Pshaw ! don't be mean."
" It felt a — " continued Louisa.
" You hush up ; you don't know. Was you
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 227
there, now ? Say, was you there ?" And Johnnie
felt obliged to save his anecdote by telling it again
for the thousandth time since the accident. The
rest clustered around the bed not to lose the least
part of word or expression.
" It felt a scrinchin' " — twisting his hands as if
wringing something off — "and a scranchin' " —
twisting his face now — " and a scroonchin', and a
— hell !" with that side-splitting wink of his left
eye at them.
"I 'ain't done nuffin all day." Baby, the
youngest, four years old, who usually did the gut-
ter business, had patiently waited to enter his
When Janey did come home and opened the
door in her habitual despairing way, they must,
unless they were altogether insatiable, have been
satisfied with her surprise. At the moment, they
were hopping over the floor to show the delighted
Johnnie how he would have to walk in future; each
one holding the shoe off the naked upheld foot.
" Hurrah, Janey ! Here we are !"
" Every single one of us, Janey."
" We haven't been out all day, Janey."
"And we've been being good, Janey."
" Look at me, Janey !"
"Look — look at Johnnie, Janey !"
" Don't you see, Janey ?"
" I tied him, Janey."
" So did I !"
228 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
"And me, too !"
" But I told 'em to do it. Didn't I ? Didn't
I, now ?" screamed Johnnie, over them all.
" I 'ain't done nuffin all day long, Janey,"
claimed the baby again, looking so unnatural
with his clean face that it is no wonder Janey
kissed him over and over again for a dear little
" See, we are going to hang 'em up, Jane}',"
showing the shoes.
" Santa Claus has got to give us something
this time, sure !"
" We 'ain't got stockings, but shoes will do."
"And we are going right to bed, so as Santa
Claus can come as soon as he likes."
"And right to sleep."
" Here's Tipple's shoe. He 'ain't got but one.
Had to let the old car mash off the tother one."
" In course ! in course !" Tipple would be
sarcastic. " It was my fault. I ought to have
took off my hat, and made a low bow to the dum-
my, and axed the cars please to stop till I took
off my shoe, or tell 'em to call round again, or to
come in summer when I was barefooted."
" I hope Santa Claus will bring me a red para-
sol," and Louisa sidled and arched as she imag-
ined the fortunate possessors of these luxuries to
do in their promenades through the streets.
They were indeed that evening as good and
affectionate children as were to be found any-
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 229
where among all the miraculously good and affec-
tionate children of Christmas Eve. They kept
their word about going to bed, and what was
more surprising, about going to sleep, leaving
Janey to novel evening hours, undisturbed by
care or anxiety about them, dnd scoring a point
in their own favor which no Santa Claus could
by any possibility ignore.
Janey lighted her lamp and got out her sewing
that she might think, for one process with her had
become inseparable from the other. She had
been a precocious adept in both, and since Lou-
isa's age had been hemming, running, stitching,
basting, and button-holeing year after year, or
year on year, first in one, then in another, dress-
maker's room, carrying her thought around with
her needle-book, adding chapter to chapter, pe-
riod to period, from childhood to Avomanhood,
finishing up one job of thinking to open another,
as if she were paid by the day for it also.
Going through heavy stuffs for the winter, light
ones for spring, thin for summer, light for au-
tumn ; as the months slipped by, she only knew
the seasons, in the close room, by the dry-goods
she sewed. Going into mourning and out of
mourning, changing, twisting, turning, fashioning
old garments to look like new, and new ones to
appear more than their price, receiving constantly
new orders about placing the whalebones, ribbons,
buttons, laces, hooks and eyes, cutting out one year
230 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
this way, another year that, draping and undraping,
life had outwardly become one long monotonous
servitude to change. If she had had imagination,
she would have said that she was not a woman —
her woman charms drying up unused upon her
— but some devil's imp or gnome, one of a vast
league, in some stolen woman's body, sent from
some devil's little hell of fashion on a special
mission of corruption against womankind ; to
aid, abet, encourage, assert, and produce dissen-
sion between the mind and body ; to tempt into
perils of debt and perils of morality; to delude
with beauty and reward with ugliness; to uncover
in pretending to cover ; to disclose in pretending
to hide; to draw the laces tighter and tighter,
cut the bodice lower and lower, the sleeve higher
and higher, the skirts narrower and narrower ; to
push a suggestion to a suspicion, a suspicion to
a conviction of impropriety ; to efface standards ;
to inure to exposure ; to push flesh and blood
forward into ever greater evidence, and the soul
backward into ever greater discredit.
But such were not Janey's thoughts, although
a morbid companion at the work-table gave utter-
ance to similar ones. Her thoughts wandered in
other directions. They were off and away at the
first stitch for beautiful gardens, or for sandy
shores rippled by the waters of a blue lake, under
golden skies, listening to sweet music, locating
the pearly streets of heaven. Or they spent mill-
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 231
ions of money in schemes of charity, or went on
missions to unfortunates ; or, coming home, they
cleaned, repaired, and beautified the poverty and
disgrace-stricken domicile ; they educated Louisa
into a respectable young woman ; they made the
boys sober, honest, industrious laborers ; keeping
Dick from gambling, Bobbie from smoking, and
Tippie from catching on behind the cars ; they
sent the baby to a free Kindergarten, and re-
formed — God help her ! — her old rascally father,
bringing him from the grog-shop to sit at home
of evenings, refining from his face the blotches
and marks that incrusted the features, and hid
them from what they were in her childish recol-
lections of him. There was to be a table with a
lamp on it ; around it they all were to sit, she
with her sewing, the others with newspapers and
books. She could see the very pattern of the
table-cover. God help her again, and all women
who toil on through life after t'g/ii's /a fu us hope, to
be led into disappointment and a bog !
At the end of all the planning, cleaning, re-
forming, at some distant point in a long vista, her
thoughts, and her needle too (for it was distinctly
officious in the process), would marry her to
Harry. And then the repose, the caresses, the
leaning on a strong arm, the reclining against
a strong breast ! And now, God bless those
thoughts which come to lonely women, and give
them a taste of the love they are never to know,
232 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
and provide them with the mate, family, and home
which their nature craves, but their destiny denies !
She had much to think about to-night, but her
needle threaded only stitches together. She was
to start anew in life to-morrow; she had taken
the first step already ; but her feet were already
tired and apathetic. The children all slept in
their little beds, quiet and safe. Perhaps if she
had had to hunt them up, as usual, to scold and
punish them, if they had been unkind, impudent,
ungrateful, as usual ! She shed tears over the
bitter thoughts that had come to her that day
about them, the bitter feelings which had lashed
her on to her own immolation. The revulsion
which their change of conduct had caused in the
judgment of the poor young physician was as
nothing to that which the young Wiggenses caused
in the heart of their sister, simply by coming in
early and going to bed quietly.
Hark ! how happy the people were outside !
She threw down her work, opened the window,
and leaned out. Tramping by, with bundles un-
der their arms, men and women talked and laugh-
ed loudly, full of Christmas plans and presents.
The market stores were all ablaze with light.
She could hear fireworks all over the city ; an
occasional rocket burst in her horizon, throwing
new constellations over the thickly-starred heav-
ens. She knew they came from the aristocratic
mansions up-town, sent up by servants hidden in
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 233
flower-gardens to amuse the silk and lace clad la-
dies in the galleries. Bands of music crossed each
other at street-angles ; great fire-crackers like pis-
tols were shot off like minute-guns over a victory,
startling and frightening her every time. What
joy and merriment there could be in the world,
and what sorrow and heaviness of heart ! Why
was it that only the latter portion had come to
her ? The children thought it was their naughti-
ness had prevented Santa Claus coming to them ;
what would they say to-morrow when their good-
ness would be found unrewarded ?
" Out of the chase,
Out of the race,
Man of Bethlehem, lead !"
How the voices hurt ! the quivering, drear, ne-
gro voices, changing every melody into a dirge,
funereal in mind as in skin.
" Oiit of the tears.
Out of the fears,
j\lan of Bethlehem, lead !"
How often at night they had passed through
her dreams, these street minstrels, waking her
with tears in her eyes, and she had loved them
■ for their musical gratuity, and gone to sleep
again singing the tune over to herself ! God may
have afflicted them, but He had given them the
expression and alleviation of music.
234 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
" Eleven o'clock ! They would have passed
this evening together, Harry and she, the last
evening of their separate lives, hand in hand,
and — No ; when they were together, it was not
all endearment and embrace ; that was only in
her thoughts. Why should she think that which
had never happened, never could happen ? Why
now did she feel his lips upon hers ?" She hid
her face in her hands and stifled a moan on her
lips. Why should her heart involuntarily moan ?
What carousing was going on at the corner, in
the groggery where her father was .-' They had
better be at home, these men. Where were their
women ? Leaning out of windows, watching, sleep-
less, unhappy? Those fire-crackers, how could
the police permit them ? Murder could be done
by pistols under cover of their noise. Harry had
looked forward to to-morrow — her great, burly,
high-tempered Harry ! He was dull about some
things, but she loved him all the better for it.
"God knows I thought it was my duty!" She
said the words aloud, and started at the sound of
talking to herself. A black cloud had been gath-
ering over her for a week ; perhaps she was not
well, perhaps she had worked too hard, and, and
— if she had waited ! Would Harry go to the
devil as he said ? Wasn't it always a woman's
fault Avhen a man went to the devil ? She had
meant to save her little brothers — from what ?
What immediate danger threatened them ? Harry
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 235
had no sister, no family to look after him — Harry,
who had given her only the constant love-tokens
of an unswerving devotion. Her heart was get-
ting beyond her control ; bounding, leaping, de-
manding, crying, craving — Harry ! Harry ! no
brother, no sister, no father — only Harry, her
promised husband ! She was so weak and tired,
so helpless against this sudden heart fury. "Would
he go straight home — ah me ! — and sit in the dark
thinking hard things of me ; or would he go to a
saloon too, and make an all night of it ?" She
had once taken his pistol from him, and made
him promise never to wear it again. Would he
love again and get married? There were few
women who would not be glad of him for a hus-
band, and she had thrown him off — for what ?
To think that her life would go on the better
without him ! And the children, why should he
not have helped to train them, her husband, their
brother — without him no future, no —
That was a pistol this time ! again, again, and
again ! Screams, oaths, a rushing crowd ; a cry
of murder ! "Harry! Harry!" She rushed from
the room to the street. She would pierce the
crowd ; she would tear her way through ; if he
were there she would drag him out ; if he were
shot, it was she had disarmed him. There were
assassins and drunkards at that corner.
*' Janey, Janey, what is the matter ? Where are
you going } Janey !"
236 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
Harry's arms held her ; Harry's voice was in
her ears. He had waited, as he promised tire
parson — waited until midnight, his last vigil on
the little box steps in front of her house. The
bells were just going to ring now.
" Janey ! little woman ! little wife !"
For she clung to him so,' she cried so over him,
she kissed his face, his eyes, his beard, his hands
— his hard, heavy, mule-driving hands.
" Harry, Harry, Harry, darling !"
That was the way she always called him to
herself, but it was the first time he had ever heard
" Harry, I'm all wrong; Harry, I can't — I can't
live without you."
What a maddening jubilation ! what a peal the
bells were ringing about them ! as if all true, hap-
py, reunited lovers in the world were pulling at
the ropes' ends.
Herbert remained alone in the church to the
meditations, for which eighteen centuries have
furnished the soil, and which, even in a Christmas
story, perhaps cannot with discretion be revealed.
Whether he wandered up and down the narrow
aisles, or whether he stood in the dark, with his
head against the walls, staring blankly before
him, or v;hether he sat in a pew, his face in his
hands, or looking up at the cheap radiant star
over the altar ; whether he fell on his knees be-
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 237
fore the altar, murmuring inarticulate words of
prayer, or shedding tears on the green leaves, or
cried " Avaunt !" to lurking Satans, or shut his
lips to keep back the rising tumult in his heart,
it was intended for none but the eye of Him whom
the star typified.
Oh, the sadness that comes on Christmas Eve !
All the noise and merriment is but to neutralize
it. Never does time appear to move so fast, and
good resolutions so slow ; never does childhood
appear so beautiful, or so remote ; never does in-
nocence appear more heavenly, or more impossi-
ble ; never do longings for the dead and gone so
wring and torture the heart : never does the hard
reality of the present so clash with the anticipa-
tions of what it was to be — as when, hour after
hour, Christmas Eve passes, and, hour after hour,
Christmas approaches. Herbert struggled to
make the present one yield some mitigations of
future ones ; some recollection which would stand
out in Christmas Eves to come, and challenge the
black spectre of despondency that glides in mid-
night hours to whisper in the ear of the consci-
entious, " Thou hast failed." And if any prayer
addressed at such a moment might be recorded
by profane hands, it was the prayer that rose
from his heart to that effect.
And he felt that the answer would come to him,
not in the church, but out there in the multitude,
surging and rolling out noise, leaving now and
238 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
then a rocket here, a voice there, cast up solitary
and shrill on the air.
Out there were hands to be clasped, hearts to
be raised ; out there sympathy, companionship,
love ; out there a whole population for a desolate,
loving heart. Out there, where the barefooted
vision walked, were sisters and brothers at this
moment waiting for them both — sisters and
brothers in spite of religious, political, financial,
" Out of the tomb,
Out of the gloom,
Christ of Bethlehem, lead !"
The accordion was tired and tripping, the
voices thin and irregular ; both were on their last
" Up, up above,
To Heaven and Love,
Christ of Bethlehem, lead !"
The words ran together and stopped suddenly,
as if butting against a wall ; the tune had been
lost in the various transmigration of voices.
"Would it be safe to leave the door open now?"
Had He no more use for His little church to-
night ? If He should come and find it closed
against Him ?
Herbert did not shut it as he went out. The
dago family hung around their shop like bunches
of their own tropical fruits, gorgeous in their
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 239
bright clothes, which nature must have furnished
and renewed from year to year, like foliage, so
harmonious and unconventional were they; Maria
with her dress open, perhaps, a trifle too much
over the thick yellow skin, for nature is not pru-
dish ; but there was a long lock of black hair to
fall across it, just where baby hands could clutch
and play with it. Every year there was a new
bloom, so to speak, around the door ; a new baby
to toy with the hair and lie on the breast, to be
weaned afterwards by Marianna, and then turned
out with the rest into the whole street for nurs-
ery. They slept on the stem as their fruit did,
for all the street knew to the contrary, the latest
retirers and the earliest risers never hitting on
the moment when their banquette was empty or
their house full. They were doing a rushing busi-
ness this evening, uniting all the forces of the
family — Salvatore, Maria, Marianna, down to the
last lisping tongue— for English in which to ne-
The great thoroughfare still held its throng,
but the brilliant shops looked rifled and empty ;
the tired clerks leaned, pale and haggard, over
their disordered counters ; the flower-women were
gone, the street booths were being covered up,
buying and selling were over, yet still the moving
procession filled the banquettes and blocked the
corners. The theatres were discharging their au-
diences, the great octagonal circus giving forth
THE CHRISTMAS STORY
as if it had hidden inside some inexhaustible
source of human beings. The easy - swinging
doors of the saloons swallowed some in as they
passed ; some went in to the grand entrances of
the social clubs; the cars carried loads of them
away ; skimming off by degrees the more respect-
able element, and all the women. The harmless
period of jollity was passing ; the horns became
instruments of disturbance and annoyance ; the
fire-crackers were too loud, and left behind them
the reekings of gunpowder ; evil-looking men in
shabby garments prowled about their lairs in ob-
scure side streets and dark alleyways.
Almost midnight ! Almost Christmas morning !
Once ! Four, five, six times ! — too quick for
counting — well-known sharp reports fell upon the
air ; pistol-shots, no fire-crackers ; the imitation
sound, after all, was imperfect. A rush of men
out of a side street, with the fear of murder and
the witness-box behind them, gave the clew to
" Killed ?"
" How many ?"
" Not dead yet ?"
" Who did it ?"
The galloping horses of the ambulance went by;
policemen lead through the crowd three sudden-
ly sobered, pale-faced men, one with a pistol still
in his hand. The ambulance returned slov/ly, and
a cab passed with men in it trying to hold erect
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 24I
an inert body ; then the bells, which had been
waiting a year for this moment, pealed out with
all their might and brazenness ; the big bells
calling up the little bells, the church bells sum-
moning the fire bells, and all together rousing
every bell in every factory, market, and depot,
till there was not an idle or a stationary bell in
the city. Peace, good-will, peace and good-will
on earth, on earth as in heaven.
The great, vague, dim ships and steamboats on
the river, wakened like sleeping monsters from
their mist and inertness, gave voice, tardily tak-
ing up the cry with their hoarse steam-whistles,
bellowing an inarticulate and beast-like accom-
paniment to the sweet human rejoicings of the
bells. And all who had breath or horns or fire-
works left expended them royally during the first
five minutes of the great Birth-morn.
Herbert obeyed the bell that called to midnight
mass in the cathedral, down a narrow street, over-
hung with iron lace-work of balconies, following
the file of worshippers contributed from every
house door. The bronze equestrian statue in the
square gleamed like silver through a coating of
dew; the sharp electric light pierced the hidden
places of the roses and jasmines, whose perfume
freighted the air into heaviness. Through the
open doors of the cathedral the lights of the altar
were seen, over an undistinguishable mass of
heads ; the steps in the possession of a mob,
242 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
pushing and elbowing for entrance ; negro faces
under head -kerchiefs, white faces under laces,
still flushed from the dance, lips still wet with
champagne; the greasy jacket of the boot-black
rubbing against a dress-coat, the calico sacque
of the "marchande" brushing aside a silk cloak
from bare shoulders. The cross, gaunt, old uni-
formed Suisse burrowed in the crowd, rebuking
the loud-mouthed, tapping with his staff the ir-
reverent, collaring small boys, and cuffing them
all the way out to the street. The sleepy, indif-
ferent priest mumbles the prayers to the sleepy,
indifferent saints niched in the darkness above.
The motley congregation arrested their conversa-
tion to make the sign of the cross, or dropped
momentarily on one knee ; until the familiar voice
of the favorite opera singer sang the " Cantique
de Noel." " Noel ! Noel !"
A hush fell on them all. Even the Virgin, in
her gaudy incarnation of paint and gilt, must be
impressed. Even the most thoughtless, the wild-
est, the wickedest, must pause for that one mo-
ment of singing.
" What do men and women like those feel and
think in such a pause ?"
Herbert looked at a group, staying their laugh-
ing and jesting and undue familiarities of hand
and tongue. The hymn was ending, one last
note thrilling the air, the current of people al-
ready setting towards the street again.
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 243
" Where is your baby ?" Herbert recognized
one of the young women by an inspiration
tlirough her blazonry of silk and jewels — the
Her face paled at his question as it did that
afternoon on the chancel steps, showing on each
cheek a spot of rouge in startling relief.
" My baby ?"
She tried to say it derisively, tried to make her
pretty eyes flash at him, tried to throw off his
hand, tried to laugh with the others. In vain.
The mother in her deserted the woman ; with all
her effort nothing was left of her but a weak,
trembling, ghastly, conscience -stricken creature,
with breasts throbbing wildly, hands craving their
burden, and a heart which all through the dinner
and the opera, the champagne and the revelry,
had been dragging her back — back to the steps
where she had deserted her own flesh and blood.
The men, elegant and discreet, looked before
them ; the women tittered, whispered, pointed ; they
were older than she. The crowd carried them all
off, leaving her standing by the young pastor.
" Have you put it in an asylum .?"
" No ! no ! no !"
" Take me to it."
He took her hand and led her out, pulling her
along for a square or two ; then she led him, in-
creasing her speed, as the bad spell on her weak-
ened, faster and faster, until, almost in a run, she
244 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
reached the bright lights of the broad thorough-
fare. She pulled him across it, and on, on, past
house after house, to where his little church stood
gray and shadowy in the night. Up to the church,
to the steps, up the steps to the corner appro-
priated by the Sicilian Marianna.
" Gone ! Gone ! My baby gone !" she screamed.
She got down on her knees and felt the place with
her hands, going over and over it, as if searching
for a pin. " Could it have rolled down ?" She
rushed out in the banquette and looked up and
down ; she bent over the gutter and plunged her
hands in the slime and mud. " My baby ! My
baby ! Gone ! I put it here — right here " — lay-
ing her hand on the spot — "where the little dago
girl sits. She would have found it, taken care of
it, nursed it. Every day I've seen her here : she
looked like the picture of the Virgin."
" You abandoned it ; why should you care for
it ?" He could not ask the question of her as
she stood illoglcally, inconsequently weeping and
wringing her hands, her hat and feathers awry,
her long, light, wrinkled gloves wet to the elbow
with gutter mud. From all eternity women have
been mothers, only faithless momentarily.
" I resisted, I resisted, but the Christmas com-
ing — the noise, the lights, the music, the fire-
crackers — they called me out, as they called me
out of the asylum, out into life, into the world.
It was the devil again at me — the devil ! My
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 245
baby ! My pretty little baby ! She will be sent
to the police-station ; she will be put in an asylum,
to be called out, as I was, by the devil. She will
be taken by people who will beat her, by negroes
who will degrade and corrupt her. The little
dago girl would have been kind to her. I could
have seen her every day. My baby ! Now I've
lost her forever."
Marianna did not wait for the bell from her
own fosterling church, for she knew that it was
too poor to possess one. But about the time for
the other bells to ring, she ran in from her oyster
and banana selling to midnight mass there. No
crowd, no lights, no music. She slipped through
the open door. Was this a church on Christmas
It could not have been finer in heaven itself
than at San Antonio's, their patron saint's, last
year. The stable, the oxen, the manger, the Vir-
gin, the Wise Men, and St. Joseph — all life-size
and death-stiff. And not even in heaven, unless
in the Italian quarter of it, could the candles
(great monoliths of wax with orchidaceous efflo-
rescence, only slightly yellow with age), the gilt
and silver, the paper flowers and coloring, be ex-
celled. And the votive legs, arms, hearts, hands,
eyes — they hung around like the gleanings of a
battlefield ; and the mental and moral cures, with
the printed acknowledgments — San Antonio must
246 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
surely have thought of the decoration of his own
church when he undertook so many miracles.
That was a church ! Here was nothing, abso-
lutely nothing, but sad green leaves. She knelt
down at the altar. If there had been only a bam-
bino for the empty manger ! Could not God,
who sent bambinos in quantities on the asking,
have spared one poor little infant for this cradle ?
Why did not the patron saint of this church emu-
late the example of the industrious San Antonio ?
Not one image! Not one ex iwto I Not a flower
or a gilt leaf ! She looked at Pepe in her arms,
and at the font. Here was the cradle ; here is
where the bambino should lie. But Pepe was
far beyond the age and cleanliness for the role ;
his time of dismissal was about come ; precocious
as he was, he had not learned to crawl a moment
too soon. The rich ladies of the neighborhood
might have given a bambino, or loaned one of
" Marianna ! Marianna !" her mother called.
Maria would have sent her voice into the very
Vatican when she was in a temper ; and the
Holy Father himself would hardly have dared
defer obedience. The little girl ran by her cor-
ner of the steps. Who had been invading it .-• —
her own temper now rising. The bundle fell
open at her touch, exposing the contents.
" A bambino ! a bambino ! God has sent a
bambino !" A beautiful bambino, clean and
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 247
white, with naked feet and hands. She dropped
Pepe, and carried it in quickly, and laid it on
the green couch in the baptismal font in time
for the first stroke of the great bell that led the
ringing choral, over-ringing her mother's vocifer-
ous " Marianna ! Marianna !"
" Where are you going .?" asked Herbert, taking
the girl by her wrist again.
" Nowhere ! nowhere ! There's no place for
me to go on earth. My baby ! my baby !" She
tried to break from him. " Let me go ! let me
go ! I've lost my child ! I've killed her ! Let
me kill myself, too !"
Her voice was loud and violent. People pass-
ing by turned back to look at the desperate woman
in struggle with a man.
There was one place open for her and all like
her ; the host was standing in the door to wel-
come her. Herbert lifted her, still struggling, up
the steps, and carried her, tight and fast in his
arms, to the spot where she had fallen prostrate,
a broken, helpless creature offering her child to
the Saviour. The star shone over the place.
Her eyes were quicker than his, but she thought
it a fantasy ; her poor brain had been so dis-
traught. She had been seeing this baby so long ;
for weary, weary months ; through the glaze of
fever at the hospital, through suffering, privation,
temptation. She had just been seeing it lost,
248 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
stolen, ill-treated, dead. She could trust her
eyes no more ; she closed them on the vision, but
they would not stay closed.
He thought her cry was maniacal, and her ac-
tions, tearing and scattering the greens from the
" I gave her to Him, and now He has given
her back to me. See ! see ! I gave her to Him,
and now He has given her back to me." She
held the bambino towards Herbert.
With the fear of the committee before his eyes,
Herbert replaced, as well as he could, the fontal
decorations, artfully trying to suggest in the re-
placement an impending top-heaviness.
" Where are you going now ?"
If he could only have seen the radiance, the
sweet holy radiance of her face !
" Home ! home ! with my baby — my child !"
As they descended the steps a limp figure
rolled and lolled over a protesting accordion.
"Into the light,
Into the right,
Christ of . . ."
" Yes, sir ! that's so !" The words ended in a
The little church had a grand congregation, a
most surprising congregation, for Christmas Day.
Everybody who was anybody in the neighbor-
hood seemed to be getting up too late for any
OF A LITTLE CHURCH. 249
but the one church — the gentlemen could not
finish their breakfasts in time, nor the ladies
dress themselves sufficiently fine, nor the children
be made ready, for the fashionable churches up-
town. All came. The nobodies of the neighbor-
hood all came, hot from dusting and sweeping
and washing up dishes ; the cooks ran in pulling
down their sleeves, the maids with their caps and
aprons ; the passers-by stopped in for a prayer or
two ; and all the roving churchless Christians,
who could not pay pew rent anywhere, or who
had been dropped by their pastors or shunned
by other church officers as irretrievables — the lit-
tle church gathered them all in ; not only them,
but their offerings — big donations intended for
bigger churches, and the mites which were too
small for any church but this one. The young
gentlemen from the boarding-house come over at
least in time for the plate, and those who could
not come sent crumpled bank-bills by their col-
The music was wretched, every one said, the
sermon more commonplace than ever, the reading
miserable, the decorations paltry. But it was
soon over — a compensating merit fully appre-
ciated by the members of the clubs just around
the corner. By twelve o'clock they were all
away — all except a tall, burly, shy man and a
neat, little, pale, trembling lady, and a long file
of children afflicted with irrepressible hilarity,
250 THE CHRISTMAS STORY
munching apples and whispering their admira-
tion over the agile performances of a lame boy
on a new crutch.
" I took your advice last night, sir, and I hope
you will marry us this morning, sir. I've got her
now, and she sha'n't give me the slip again."
There was no need to answer this, but woman-
like the bride would have attempted it if Herbert
had not immediately commenced the marriage-
service. The delighted vestry, with their .pocket-
handkerchiefs tied to bursting over the bills,
trade-dollars, halves, quarters, dimes, and pica-
yunes taken up in the collection, acted as wit-
nesses, and gave the bride away in a body, col-
lecting their kisses, however (or they would not
have been in the vestry), singly and individually.
They shook hands with the groom and tipped the
children, from Louisa to Baby.
When they were all leaving the church together,
beaming under the load of Merry Christmases
they had received and Merry Christmases they
had given, who should appear with the greatest
alacrity from the corner where she and her curi-
osity had been concealed but Mrs. Bunnyfeather,
note-book in hand, and mindful as ever of her
duty as secretary of the Sunday-school chapter.
Not one of those little Wiggenses was allowed to
depart until the last name, age, and sex had been
registered as Sunday-school scholars, member-
ship to commence that very evening at the Sun-
OF A LITTLE CHURCH.
day-school Christmas-tree, on which, she assured
them, Santa Claus had hung a present for each
one of them by name. Surprising as it may seem,
such really turned out to be the case — not one
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1870.
IN THE FRENCH aUARTER. 1870.
"In a moment, monsieur;" and
Margot's scrubbing-brush proceeded
with accelerated force.
The cathedral clock in the vicin-
ity struck the quarter.
"But the time passes, my good Margot."
" In just one minute, monsieur."
The clock rang the half-hour.
" Margot !"
" I am going now, monsieur, at once."
Monsieur Villeminot heard the sound of the
floor-cloth really ceasing at the sill of the door,
and a last handful of brick-dust fall scattering
over the wet boards, and the bucket being car-
The room was so small that privacy could only
be obtained by standing behind him as he sat in
his great leather-covered easy chair, an antiquated
" Voltaire," whose flattened springs and stufifing
were assisted by pillows and cushions of divers
shapes and hues. Margot unpinned the piece of
bagging that served for an apron, let down her
256 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1870.
skirt over her stockingless ankles, and passed a
dean calico dress over the soiled damp one she
had on. As she had explained to Madame St.
Georges only the day before, with a shrug of the
shoulders : " Mon dieu, madame ! I have not
known a more intimate garment than a dress in
years, years." She gave a glance of satisfaction
over the well-scrubbed floor. " At any rate, it is
done now for a week," she said, more to herself
than to the occupant of the chair, and shuffled
out of the room in her old carpet slippers.
When he heard the door close behind her, the
old man among his cushions began as usual to
mutter his thoughts audibly, a disconnected, un-
intelligible monologue, getting more and more dis-
tinct with the certainty of solitude. His fine aris-
tocratic language resembled Margot's daily speech
as the silken toilets of the ladies in the street re-
sembled her calico homeliness ; it was as much
out of place in the menial interior of his habita-
tion as the long row of glistening-back books that
filled the mantel-shelf. He bent his head forward,
listening to his own voice furtively, as he once
might have looked at his face in the glass, pro-
nouncing the words and phrases tentatively, inter-
rogatively, scanning his toothless articulation. In
his sightless, motionless existence the contracted
enclosure of his apartment set no limits to the
vast blank space that surrounded him; a space
furnished only by the dim scenery of a lived-out
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1870. 257
past, and with but one certain living reality in it —
himself. To-day his words came not, as sometimes,
from literary corners or imaginative niches in his
memory. Imagination for once v,'as stilled, liter-
ature forgotten, phantasms and visions dissolved.
The brows over his blind eyes wrinkled and fur-
rowed, his palsied hands clasped and unclasped ex-
citedly the arms of his chair, and his w^hite-haired
head, responsive to his own eloquence, rose wrath-
fully erect. Expressions original in their inspira-
tion fell from his lips, and his voice resounded so
firm, so determined in his own ears that, had his
eyes been suddenly unsealed, he would have ex-
pected to see not a decrepit Octogenarian, pros-
trate upon the cushions of an easy chair, quartered
in a wretched, isolated closet on a servant's gal-
lery ; but a youthful, heroic, vigorous figure, aflame
with ardor, strength, and patriotism, repulsing by
word and blow, in chamber or field, the audacious
invasion of his country; the only figure to enclose
a French heart, the only heart for a youth born
under the star of Napoleon I., the only scene and
action for a French patriot in the year 1870 ! A
fit of coughing arrested the resurrection of his
youthful self, and he fell back exhausted — back
into age, infirmity, and impotence, into the grave-
clothes and cofhn boundaries of his chair.
All the other rooms on the gallery that Margot
passed were closed and locked, the lodgers work-
ing out by the day. She turned into an open,
258 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1870.
arched vestibule and went down the contorted,
narrow staircase holding the balustrade with one
hand, clutching at the wall with the other, and
trying to step upon safe places.
The railing was black and greasy from con-
stant handling, and the mortar had been scratch-
ed away from the brick all the way down by out-
stretched fingers. "Ah, the Pagan 1" she muttered,
"he will break our necks yet some day with his
old 'guet-a-peus.' " Had they but have material-
ized the reproaches and animadversions upon old
Grouille, the landlord, they would have incrusted
the roof like stalactites.
The landing-place was filled with buckets and
tubs, the brick iloor was mouldy from dampness,
and the fumes of charcoal poured from the Car-
lins' open room, where a furnace stood in the fire-
place heating its load of irons to redness. Margot
went in and deliberately removed them one after
the other carefully to the bricks. The bed in the
corner of the whilom kitchen was heaped with
rough-dry clothes; the doorless armoire held heaps
of ironed pieces. On the ironing-table was a bro-
ken basin of raw starch, a cracked soup-plate of
bluing and an unfinished shirt, the bosom dry-
ing into wrinkles; Monsieur Wilhelm's weekly
shirt it was, marked distinctly with red cross-
stitch, for the washing and ironing of which he
gave tri-weekly lessons in penmanship to Rou-
gette and Blanchette, the overgrown, but under-
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1870. 259
gifted, sixteen-year-old twin-daughters of the wid-
ow Carlin. It was hke the Carlins to rush out
thus heedlessly from their work at the first cry
of news; and Margot's shake of the head beto-
kened as much. She looked into all the other
rooms on the ground -floor, but, like that of the
Carlins, they were deserted and disordered. She
reluctantly crossed the court-yard, pulling at and
fastening her dress, and entered the long corri-
dor, the domain of the wealth and elite of the
Even Monsieur Fre'jus, she saw, had been se-
duced away from his post behind his little glass
counter filled with an inestimable treasure of red
and white coral beads, devotional images and
plated silver medals, crucifixes, and prayer-beads.
A volume of mixed voices directed her to " La
Rose de France," the shoe-shop of Monsieur Re-
naudiere. There she found them all assembled,
the small room quite full. "Papa" Renaudiere, in
his shirt-sleeves and working apron, was talking
and gesticulating furiously, waving and rustling
the last "Extra" in his hands; his spectacles
pushed back to the bald place on the top of his
head, his eyes flaming, his hair and whiskers bris-
tling out laterally from nervous manipulation.
Monsieur Frejus's head was still moving back-
ward and forward in the melancholy oscillations
produced by the first item in the cablegram of the
"Extra." His spectacles, over his dim, abstracted
260 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1870,
eyes, looked like the glasses of an unlighted lan-
tern, and his countenance was as dejected as the
holy effigies on his crucifixes. He stood with his
back to the street, leaning against the show-win-
dow where Monsieur Renaudiere's misfits were
vindictively kept on exhibition; a high -heeled,
pointed-toed array of pedal beauty; a temptation
and reproach to the slipshod passers-by, and a
vaunting advertisement of Monsieur Renaudiere's
superiority in skill and artistry over bungling,
clumsy Nature, and a standing taunt and chal-
lenge to her for competition or imitation.
All the Carlins were wedged into the back door
of the workshop with the journeymen ; the widow's
sleeves rolled to the shoulder, and her fat white
feet gleaming in the bottom of her sabots ; her
youthful twin replicas of her honest, handsome
face peering over her shoulder. The journeymen
listened open - mouthed, looking withal askance
at Madame Renaudiere, who, towering behind her
diminutive husband, led the chorus of lamenta-
tion with a rank Gascon accent.
" Ah, la pauvre Patrie vas !"
" Pauvre France !"
" Mon Dieu ! Mon Dieu !"
" Ah, she has no luck any longer."
" It's a malediction !"
" What will she do now ?"
" But what is it ? What is it ?" asked Margot,
eagerly, entering from the corridor.
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER, 1870. 261
" Sedan !"
" Sddan !"
" Sedan !"
" Mais c'est dans quoi ?"
" C'est dans le desespoir," answered IMonsieur
Renaudiere promptly, in his character of wit and
" Ah, oui, c'est dans le desespoir." Madame
Renaudiere rolled out the words as if her mouth
Avere lined with cobble-stones.
" In truth, my friends, it is a great calamity."
The mincing accent of the little Parisian flower-
maker came from the folds of a pocket-handker-
chief, behind which her enterprising eyes cast lan-
guishing overtures towards old Grouille the land-
lord. He, unconscious of sympathy or notice, sat
on the dainty sofa reserved for customers, hold-
ing his bushy head with both hands, excusably
as Alsacian as well as Frenchman, giving him-
self up to those uncurbed demonstrations of grief
usually devoted to absconding tenants.
" Sedan, dog of a name !" snarled Jacquet from
the " Quincaillerie " opposite. He was Monsieur
Renaudiere's formidable rival in eloquence, pa-
triotism, and politics, and a fervent red republican,
priest-hater, and woman-hater to boot ; although
there were on-dits and shrugs and winks enough
in the neighborhood and suspicions enough in
his second-hand shop to seriously attaint the loy-
alty of this last profession of his at least.
262 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1870.
" But — " began Margot again.
" Chut !" whispered Anais Renaudiere, pulling
her skirt; "it's the French, the French!"
" The French," interrupted the keen - eared
Monsieur Renaudiere, fiercely snatching her ex-
planation from her. " The French, Madame
Margot ; France ! . . . " He cleared his throat,
which was indeed husky from emotion or pro-
longed exertion. "France!" all looked up for
an expected verbal palliative. "France is —
France is — It is a freak of nature! It is an
event ! It is an occurrence ! It ! France !" He
looked around at them all ; he could not say
it. " France is eclipsed, momentarily eclipsed !"
He launched the word triumphantly. "A cloud
is passing over her ; a cloud of Prussians. Can
the sun, can the moon be destroyed ? Well, as
they are the orbs of the heavens, so is France
the orb of the earth, and" — he was in full
course now — " indestructible except by cata-
"Enfant du bon Dieu !" came in naive awe
from Madame Carlin.
" Ha ! it is not the end ! You think it is the
end ! But wait, wait for the last word. Your
Bice Marque, your Molque, your Que'sair ..."
This apostrophe, different in tone and direction,
caused his audience to start. " Monsieur Vil-
lem !" they exclaimed. Even Monsieur Frejus's
head stopped vibrating at the unfortunate appari-
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1870. 263
tion of the young German in the door-way behind
" The Prussians ! the Prussians !" screamed
Monsieur Renaudiere. " I defy the Almighty
Himself to create a Prussia that could whip
"But my friends," commenced the young man
in a French which was foreign in clearness and
precision — •
" Friends ! Bah !"
" Friends ! Ah, yes !"
" Friends ! French and Prussian ! Friends !"
" But we are in America ; we are Americans !"
" Americans !"
" Ah, yes ; Americans !"
" Americans ! a la bonne heure !"
" We are to call ourselves Americans, hein ?
now, when our country is being assassinated ?"
called out the ebullient Madame Renaudiere.
" Americans ! vas !" sneered the journeymen.
" Yes, when America was in danger, we were
Americans ; America was our country, our moth-
er ; but France ! France ! She is before America,
she is the first, the source of countries for us ; she
is the divine incarnation of ' la patrie ' as the
Virgin, as the Madonna, is the incarnation of
womanhood. When I say France," the tears roll-
ed down his face before them all, and his voice
broke — "when I say France, it is as if every drop
of blood in my body had a voice. Expatriation
264 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER, 1S70.
may change the body, but the blood, the blood, it
is always the same, always remains loyal, Gallic !
Gallic, my friends ; and," with an acute transition
from sentiment into anger again, "it is our Gallic
blood that calls for vengeance to-day, it is our
Gallic blood that blushes to-day at the insult of
destiny, and dares to reprove God."
" Gallic blood !" repeated Madame Renaudi^re,
impressed herself and proud of the effect of the
high-sounding adjective on others.
" Bravo !" responded Jacquet, applauding the
reproof to God.
Monsieur Frejus hastened out of the room where
patriotism was taking a turn inconsistent with his
pious trade. Monsieur Wilhelm Miiller, the plod-
ding young professor of Greek and Latin, looked
round and round in embarrassment, uncertain
whether a national or personal explanation would
be more appropriate ; a deprecating smile on his
lips, the color mounting under his thin skin, his
simple blue eyes confessing frankly the doubt be-
tween grief and anger. He had been fellow-lodger
and companion to them for years, a Prussian to
them for two months ; but there seemed to have
been a tacit nullification of all former propitiatory
periods and relations. From each familiar face
black flags and martial accoutrements waved and
bristled now to his peaceful overtures ; even from
his scholars Rougette and Blanchette, even from
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1870. 265
The shoe-upper Anais held in her hand shook
and quivered, dancing the glistening, pendent
needle at the end of a long, black- silk thread.
Her head was tossed back, her chest heaved tur-
bulently; in her eyes rose up the whole terrible
calamity of Sedan ; those shy, alluring black eyes,
his paradise and temptation ! For the first time
they avoided the sweet intoxication of a rencon-
tre with his. As for Margot, she stood stupid
and silent, neither daring to hazard another ques-
tion, nor return without more definite information
to her husband.
The women's voices, which had been modulated
in woe, began to rise shrill and sharp in reflections
and insinuations against their elected foe, Wil-
helm, now in full retreat. Margot hastened after
him through the damp corridor as fast as her
slippers would allow.
" Monsieur Willem ! Monsieur Willem ! For
God's sake, tell me what it is all about ! I can't
understand a word, no one will explain — the pa-
tron waits, he is agonized to hear the news. It is
a perfect gombo."
The sharp snapping of his finger-tips ceased,
and he turned around, " Sddan !"
" But that's what I say ! C'est dans quoi ?"
" It's another battle."
" What ! Only another battle ! All that fuss
about a battle ! Mon Dieu ! I thought some one
had been killed !"
266 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER, 1870.
" Tell Monsieur Villeminot that his nation is
whipped, his Emperor a prisoner, his army sur-
rendered ! eighty thousand men, eighty thousand
cowards ! . . . "
" Tell Monsieur Villeminot that ! tell ' mon pa-
tron' — oh. Monsieur Villem !"
" I am as big a fool as the others," the German
exclaimed. He looked down on the little woman
with her patient, earnest face raised to him, and
the unbecoming, ireful gleam in his eyes faded
away. Her feet in his own cast-off slippers ; her
colorless blond hair, her sallow skin, her tired,
faded features ; as if she had worn away her nat-
ural outfit of good-looks with her clothes, and life
had only second-hand or cast-off supplies to
grant to her poverty. Her figure, in the pitiful
manner of overtired women, bent back as if in
search of support ; but her eyes looked at him
from it all, with all their original expression of
trust and confidence.
" If he could read it for himself, if some one
else could tell him, but me ! Mon Uieu !" she
" No, I will not speak to any one of them ! not
one of them V the young man broke in resent-
fully at the sight of the Carlins crossing the yard
in his direction. " I shall come in this evening
myself, Madame Margot ; I shall bring the paper
and explain. Do not you say anything. Tell him
it's a mistake, the news has not arrived yet. Mon-
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1S70. 267
sieur Villeminot shall not be grieved. Tenez ! I
had almost forgotten the coffee and the picayune
for milk for to-morrow morning." He put a small,
fragrant, brown -paper parcel and a coin in her
hand, and hurriedly walked through the corridor
into the street.
The cathedral bells rang out their welcome or
illcome intervening hours, measuring their second
century of time and high and low masses to the
clockless, watchless humanity of the city in the
French quarter ; chiming slowly and deliberately
through the bright, fleshy days of the young, and
most cruelly prolonging the fretful impatience of
Monsieur Wilhelm, who awaited eagerly for the
stroke which was to make or lose a day in his
eternity. But hurrying echo, close upon stroke,
linking sunrise to sunset in an ever- shortening
chain to the old — this seemed to make but mo-
ments of the diminishing, flitting, ghost-like days
of the blind old man convulsively grasping from
his Voltaire chair after but life enough for one
more item of earth news : the viaticum of defeat
or victory to his country ! hoping, despairing, ex-
postulating, wrestling with Fate, trafficking with
some far-off phantom of infantile Faith, conjuring
up a belief in immortality, that he might barter
or wager it for the proud privilege of continuing
the triumphant traditions of a stalwart period,
and so provide delusions still for his — French
268 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER, 1870.
It was nine o'clock ringing. The gas, an alter-
nate mode of illumination by the economical city,
was being turned off. The unpunctual moon was,
however, behind time ; only the silvery clouds,
blown by a light breeze across the segment of
heavens above the court-yard, warranted the reli-
ability of the almanac, and told of the distant
brilliancy in store.
" Mademoiselle Anais ! Anais!"
Monsieur Wilhelm walked close to the wall
under the gallery, and tapped with the merest tip
of his finger on the glass door of the shoemaker's
workroom. He could see the light through the
gathered dimity curtains, and he knew that the cir-
cle of radiation inside held a head wound around
with thick black plaits ; a gentille little head
bending over button-hole making in French kid
" Mademoiselle Anais ! Anaischen."
The tap and whisper were accentuated by his
ardent heart. He knew she was there ; there was
never any one else in the workroom at that hour.
Later in the season, yes, in midwinter when the
carnival was crowded with balls, then it would be
different, there would then be bustle and noise
enough behind the curtains. The ponderous, noisy
old sewing-machine would be stuttering and stitch-
ing through bewildering varieties of slippers, ]\Ion-
sieur Renaudibre would be volubly ordering and
directing, Madame Renaudiere no less volubly
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1870. 269
disobeying and contradicting. There would be
no little quiet moments like this then !
Sometimes his finger barely touched the door
before it flew open. If she were not sitting there
making button-holes, she was standing by the ta-
ble comparing, perhaps, some rejected shoe with
original measurements ; rehearsing plausible ex-
cuses for visible differences, protestations against
invisible ones, and polishing up her elocutionary
skill for special pleading on the morrow against
obdurate toe twinges; shrugging her shoulders,
raising her eyebrows, and gesticulating with her
Oh, he had seen her preparing often enough,
the coquette !
It was very necessary to reconnoitre before
knocking in front, for the menage Renaudiere
was in as constant a state of revolution as a Cen-
tral American republic. There was always a
struggle for domination going on between the
stronger and weaker sex, freakishly reversed in
the husband and wife, but whichever party was
victorious, the costs of revolution never failed to
be extracted out of Anais and the younger chil-
dren. Of seven children Anais was the eldest,
and step-sister to the rest. It was a moment after
one of these reckonings which had betrothed
them. The good God had sent him through the
corridor and Anais out of the door, there to dry
270 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1870.
her eyes, at the same instant. One little moment,
but it had been repeated and repeated whenever
their glances met. Only, the white eyelids of
Anais would always waver a moment too soon,
and the heavy lashes would always fall just in
time to hide the confession coming, always a
thought too late, from the frightened little heart ;
the tardy flush alone arriving to remain uncon-
cealed, and burn eloquently of hidden motives to
his eyes. Wilhelm's dream was some day to stay
those eyelids but long enough for the blush and
confession to meet.
The water trickled and dripped from the mossy
green cistern behind him which filled an angle in
the galleries and screened him from the rest of
the yard. He sat down on the bench against it,
upsetting the tin cup hanging over the faucet.
" Qui va la ?" (Who's there ?)
He heard Madame Renaudiere bound from her
bed. Her threatening tones fell from the win-
dow-shutters on the gallery above him.
"Who's there, I say?"
The heavy hooks dropped from the windows,
and she came out on the gallery, hastily pulling
on her blouse-volante.
" Who's there ? If you don't answer I shall
call my husband !"
This was intended for the ignorant, mal-inten-
tioned ones, who supposed that Monsieur Renau-
diere stayed at home of evenings attending to
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER, 1870. 271
his business, instead of discussing the war with
Jacquet and others at the " Quincaillerie."
" Passe, chat ! Passe !" she called, after a
" It is only I, Madame Renaudiere ! Margot !
I must have made a noise coming through the
corridor, it is so dark."
"You, Madame Margot ? So late !"
" It is only a little after nine, Madame Renau-
" Ah, I thought it was cats !"
" The pests, they are dreadful ! I cannot sleep
for them myself at night. ' Dieu vous benisse !' "
Margot called promptly as a violent sneeze shook
the gallery above.
"Ah!" feeling instinctively for her snuffbox,
" I am catching cold ! Well, good-night, Madame
"Good-night, Madame Renaudiere. No chance
of getting in without your knowing it; vas !" she
grumbled as she passed on in the direction of
her gallery. She stopped at the door to return
to Madame Carlin the bonnet and shawl bor-
rowed for the occasion, and proceeded up-stairs
to her room.
Monsieur Wilhelm, busy even in waiting, fixed
his eyes upon the obstinate glass doors and fell
mechanically to repeating the different classifica-
tions of English adverbs, marking them off on his
fingers by an original system of mnemonics. The
272 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1870.
voices in the yard all died away, the different
rooms one by one retired into darkness, nothing
but the prowling cats disturbed the sleeping si-
lence all around. His thoughts passed on to
certain subtle deductions by which he hoped to
classify lucidly obscure similarities between the
German and English languages, looking to the
ultimate establishment of some rule for the regu-
lation of the pronunciation of the vowel sounds
of both. But it all went abruptly out of his mind
with the light behind the curtains, and he stared
blankly at the place v/here she had shone in the
room, as she shone in his heart. No mental exer-
cises, knowledge, or experience, had ever prepared
him for this event ! He almost forgot to breathe.
" Thou forgetful ! Thou heartless one ! Thou
..." He abandoned his conscientious efforts
at English self-communication. " Thou unwom-
anly one ! Knowing only too well who was wait-
ing outside, thou couldst yet extinguish that light!
Without pause, without hesitation, nay, without
remorse !" There came over him the violent bit-
terness of disappointment and the stinging hu-
miliation of slight, insult, and a resentful reversal
of all the flattering epithets which only a moment
before had fitted his love so sweetly. " So ! it
is Sedan still ! So ! it is Bismarck and Napoleon
and Prussia and France ! So ! it is not two liv-
ing and loving hearts, but two inimical nations in
our bosoms !"
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1S70. 2^3
He jumped from his seat and stamped his foot
on the ground, this time driving the meddlesome
tin against the house ; but the madame had long
been lulled to sleep by the rival and perpetual
serenades of the "Marseillaise" and "Wacht am
Rhein " of recurring organ-grinders at the differ-
ent street- corners within hearing. He strode
across the yard, and, regardless of the treacher-
ous pitfalls of the staircase, mounted boldly to the
gallery, sought his room, and, with a reckless ex-
travagance of matches, lighted his lamp.
His blond hair glistened like a silver nimbus
around his red face, his light eyes were frankly
infuriated. He broke into a voluble, passionate
soliloquy, getting farther and farther away from
his trained pedagogical German as his indigna-
tion increased, and lapsing deeper and deeper
into the provincialisms and vulgarisms of expres-
sion and pronunciation of his peasant home.
" So ! That is it ! She will not open the door
to me ! She will not come out to me ! She does
not love me ! She wishes to rebuff me ! She hates
me ! That is enough, she is French, I am Prus-
sian — to put out the light in that heartless way.
O thou ! So snail-slow to love, so lightning-quick
to hate !"
He looked around his diminutive chamber. It
had been large enough to contain such a world
of ideal happiness ; all in fragments and ruin now!
" O thou female Samson !" On the table were
274 • IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1S70.
piled the fool's - cap copy books for correction ;
his nightly task, the flotsam and jetsam from the
oceans of Greek and Latin ignorance in which
God had willed he should travel through life.
And there, ranged in file for use, were the red ink
and the blue ink and the black ink with their
symbolical values of meanings, and the smeared,
rumpled copy-books of Rougette and Blanchette,
the blotted currency with which he paid for his
He would never have known he was a man if
Anais had not grown into a woman ; grown right
there before his eyes, nay, publicly, before the
eyes of the whole world. So quietly and imper-
ceptibly at first, as if to slip into it befo.re they
knew it, but with an exotic rush at the last. Into
a woman ! That little girl running around in
short clothes when he first came to the house.
In the dull, dingy, damp court-yard where plants
were coaxed to grow and no flower cared to bloom,
amid the clothes -washing, the shoemaking, the
step-motherly assiduities, and paternal vexations,
the great miracle had been accomplished. The
transformation of her, and of him, too ! For
through the Greek and Latin bricklaying of his
monotonous life visions and dreams had come
to beautify his future, and novel thoughts to be-
set and tempt him, and in his breast a spring of
poetry had been unlocked to gush and flow at
the mere thought of her name. Napoleon III.
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1S70. 275
could have conquered Prussia and passed it
through a mill and not have eliminated Anais
from his heart !
And she had turned the light from it all — de-
liberately, determinedly. It was to be all dark-
ness henceforth, and grovelling work. He was to
come through the corridor evening after evening,
tired, heart -hungry, and pass straight on. . . .
Their eyes were no more to meet. ..." Nein,
und wieder nein !"
He closed his lips, dragged his trunk from un-
der the bed, and with desperate energy began to
throw into it all his possessions, everything, pell-
mell : books, clothing, copy-books, jDens, pencils,
shoes. He stayed his hand at the ink-bottle,
which he carefully corked and put into his
pocket, took his umbrella, turned out the lamp,
and, as if he were starting out on his daily
routine, shut and locked the door behind
" Is anything the matter. Monsieur Villem ?"
He had not noticed Madame Margot, standing
in the far corner of the gallery.
" No, nothing at all. I am going away." He
passed on as resolutely as if she were Anais.
"Going away? Mon Dieu !"
He awed her with his far-away, determined
" But stop a moment, Monsieur Villem ! Your
coffee, your picayune, I shall return them."
276 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER, 1870.
Unfortunately, she belonged to the sex of
Anais ; his tone was brusque and ill-tempered,
"What do you take me for? If you do not
want them, throw them into the street. I shall
not touch them !"
She looked after him with her characteristic
"Well, good-bye, Monsieur Villem,"
" Good-bye, Madame Margot," groping his way
down the steps.
" Monsieur Villem ! Monsieur Villem !"
He was nearly to the landing. Looking up
through the dark funnel above, he saw her bend-
ing over the balusters peering after him, the moon-
light falling through the archway behind her, all
over her head and shoulders. Her whisper was
sharp and distinct.
" Remember, one teaspoonful of ' sirop de vio-
lettes ' in a cup of ' tisane de bourrache ' boiling
" Thou dear God !" Tears came into his eyes.
The strong fragrance of the violets came over him,
and the suave consciousness of maternal solici-
tude, and the delicious sensation of awakening
from pain and seeing Madame Margot with a
steaming delft cup in her hand, standing at his
bedside. Oh, those wintry nights of loneliness,
homesickness, orphanage, and pneumonia !
"Thou dear God! It is the best Thou hast
done, after all — the mothers ! Happily for us men
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1S70. 277
Thou stationedst them all through life. Thine
own hospitals ! heart sanctuaries !" He ran back
to embrace his deputy mother, descending the
steps again slowly.
The moon had at last reached the yard, and
was poised full overhead, pouring down generous
largesse of splendor on the humble scene below ;
transfiguring the most sordid detail with heaven-
ly light and loveliness. Tire leaf plants in the
little gallery gardens glistened and shimmered in
the heavy September dew, pranked with a thou-
sand diamonds, in default of the inert blossoms
that could not be caressed out of their stems.
From the great, rounded-top central window of
the main building, old Grouille's vine fell in long,
uneven fringes over the defaced stucco. A pang,
which in its acuteness might have come from his
delicate chest, shot across Wilhelm's anger at the
thought of leaving the old caravansary that had
housed him so long; that had lent to the lodging
contract the kindly grace of hospitality, and so
well concealed the pecuniary nature of their rela-
tionship. How bravely and pathetically the build-
ing rose in the moonlight, with its rooms full of
tired, sleeping, homeless lodgers ! Itself an aris-
tocratic outcast, exiled in poverty, trading its shab-
by beauties, its comforts, the shelter of its roof,
for a mere pittance. The skeletons of for-
mer romances, and the ghosts of former sen-
timent, seemed yet to flit across the galleries,
278 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1870.
look from the windows, and lurk in the dark
The cathedral clock preluded midnight ; was
every one asleep .'* Asleep and unconscious of
the sound of the hour and the sight of his going ?
Every one ? No, there was old Grouille, his heavy
foot descending step after step, from the third-
story gallery, his candle flaring up to his night-
capped head, coming down, as usual, to close and
bolt the heavy porte cochere. Wilhelm hastened
through, just in time to escape unperceived.
Madame Margot, still on the gallery, crossed
herself as if midnight were the angelus, and lis-
tened until the last musical stroke died away in
the cool, damp air. She took out a book from
under her sacque and held it closer and closer to
her eyes. The mottled paper cover, the red mo-
rocco back, and the lurid gilt title stood out clear-
ly enough, but the words that filled the inside
pages were all uniformly unintelligible. Just as
she was on the point of making one out, they all
seemed to sink back into the white paper pur-
posely to evade her. How was she ever to read
it ? She turned the soft, flimsy pages over, one
after the other, carefully with her rough fingers,
so many of them ! and all filled with words ! She
screwed her eyes almost close ; but they were
still too blunt to see through the fine, thin moon-
She was determined to read the book, to read
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1870. 279
it for herself. That was the result of all her win-
ter's interviews with Madame St. Georges, of the
Convent, that and the little colored picture
of St. Roch in her room, and the candles to burn
before the altar. She stood and thought, hold-
ing the book. She could not get out of the
circle of what she had told Madame St. Georges
and what Madame St. Georges had told her.
More particularly what she had told Madame St.
Georges, for that had excited her most. It was
strange the way she talked then, she who never
could talk. The words came all of themselves.
Even now, at the remembrance of an expression
or a tone of the reverend Mother's, the same
words rushed again to her lips, her heart getting
warm, and her eyes moist, just as they did then.
It was Madame Carlin who had done it all. It
would never have come into Margot's head to
think of such a thing, and she would never have
done it for herself, only for Monsieur Villeminot.
Madame Carlin was a notorious gossip. She had
talked to Madame St. Georges about Monsieur
Villeminot, she had induced Margot to go to the
convent after Monsieur Villeminot was asleep
evenings, and she had persuaded Margot to take
surreptitiously all the volumes from the mantel-
piece, one after the other, to show to the rev-
erend Mother ; volumes written long, long before
she and Monsieur Villeminot had come together
in the sacrament of marriage. And it was Ma-
280 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER, 1870.
dame Carlin who had suggested that Monsieur
Villeminot was bhnd, and would not miss them.
Madame St. Georges was the Superior of the con-
vent, wliere for the last five years a succession of
Carlin girls had been making their first commun-
ion. It was well that ]\Ionsieur Carlin had not
lived any longer, if a widow was the only support
he intended leaving his children, and girls the
only estate provided for his widow.
FIcurs Erotiqiies, Les Tropiqites de Pamour, Vies
Poetiques, Statistiqucs du Cceur, Romances Faii-
tastiqucs. Proud and confident Margot had car-
ried them all across the consecrated portals ; a
deception 'tis true towards her "patron," but then
. . . the admiration, the appreciation of the rev-
erend Mother, the homage when she had read —
and who knows what ensuing services and world-
ly comforts ? And in New Orleans, her New Or-
leans, who had more power, wealth, and influence
than the Sisters ? Oh, they could do anything !
" My good woman," said Madame St. Georges
at the end of it all that very evening, " have you
ever read any of these books ?"
Read ! Read Monsieur Villeminot's books !
The idea ! She had hardly dared handle them
to fetch them to the convent ! The very Sacred
Host of literature to be enshrined on a mantel !
and worshipped with vmexamining faith and rev-
"Oh no, reverend Mother ! Not one of them-'"'
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1870. 281
" It is well. They are of the evil one ! Pollu-
tion ! Corruption ! Infectious with vice and
crime ! Destructive of soul and body. Moral
and physical poison. Burn them, burn them ;
destroy them ! Remove the taint from the world !
Remove, if possible, by prayer and sacrifice, the
taint from the soul of the author ! It is such
books that make a hell of earth !"
" Grand Dieu, Seigneur !" Margot turned from
her pious attitude of admiration before the case
of scapularies and religious embroideries, and
looked at the metamorphosed, pale, calm Sister in
" Sin, vice ! Evil one ! Burn them. Monsieur
Villeminot's books ! Save his soul, Monsieur Ville-
minot's soul ! The reverend Mother herself must
" My poor woman, how came you to marry such
a man ?"
" I marry him, madame ? I ! I ! I have that
presumption ? No, thank God ! He married me.
Ah, no, madame, you do not know him. My
'patron' is a gentleman, an aristocrat, a 'man of
letters !' "
She drew herself up in rehearsal of the scene
just as she had done then, only now she was bare-
footed and without the Widow Carlin's bonnet
"What does the reverend Mother take me for?"
she had pursued, reproachfully. " His wife should
282 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER, 1870.
have come from the ladies up there ; way up there.
' Bien en haut !' " Not meaning the pictured
canonized ladies on the walls at which she was
looking, but those who had the earthly prece-
dence of dressing in silks and satins and riding
in carriages to the opera. " It is only misfortune
that drove him to me, poor man!"
An inspiration came to her to exonerate Mon-
sieur Villeminot, and in a humble way to palli-
ate her own conduct.
" There was a poor old gentleman sick in the
little corner room on the gallery where I lived.
Ma foi ! they called him old ten years ago ! He
was poor, because it was the smallest and cheap-
est room in the whole house. No one knew him ;
you see he was above every one else in the yard,
a gentleman in fact; an aristocrat, an 'homme de
lettres.' " How she loved to pronounce the three
words ! " They only know he was sick because
he ceased going out to work. He worked in a
printing-office. As for me, I never had seen him
in my life. I sewed by the day for Piton, at the
' Bon Marche ;' made blouses by the dozen. But
I am that way, madame," explanatorily. "When
I hear of sickness, I cannot keep away, I sup-
pose the good God gave me the vocation to be a
sick-nurse ; I do not know. One day I was just
passing the door with my bundle of work, and the
impulse came to go in and see how the poor old
gentleman was, and I stayed ; in fact, I never left
IN THE FRENXH QUARTER. 1870. 2S3
him day nor night. It was a long time — weeks ;
he suffered enough ! Naturally he could not pay
his rent ; how could he, madame ? Fever, rheu-
matism, and God knows what all ! Old Grouille
was for putting him in the street ; sick ! a gentle-
man, an aristocrat, a man of letters ! Ah, that
was too much ! Well, the old miser ! One room
was enough for both, thank God ! One day he
thought he was getting well, and the idea took
him ; he sent for a priest and married me — Mon
Dieu ! there has been misery enough in this world
for him 1"
She had forgotten the book, and was looking
straight before her with a smile on her lips, fill-
ing out from memory the precis of what she had
given the Sister, rounding, amplifying, beautifying,
and sublimating the prosaic facts as women will
do about their marriage ; counting over her own
secret little hoardings of looks, caresses, thrills,
and tremors — the precious private coin of love.
The time passed. How suddenly it had grown
dark ! She looked up in astonishment for the
moon. No cloud hid it ; it was only slipping
away along the smooth heavens, drawing stealth-
ily its silver light and loveliness away from the
sleeping world as gently and easily as a mother
withdraws the covering from a sleeping child.
The tall chimney of the next house cut a great
notch in the full round globe.
She was in despair. How could she manage it
284 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1S70.
now? In the daytime she had her task of sew-
ing. If the moon had but stayed longer she might
yet have sharpened her eyes sufficiently. The
blind need no light or she might have had one in
her room ; although there was one there, in the
farthest corner behind the bed, standing on a
backless chair. It was neither hers nor Monsieur
Villeminot's ; it was St. Roch's — Madame St.
George's donation ; a spiritual disinfectant in be-
half of the old author against his own works ; ded-
icated to consume its substance away in acts of
grace before the picture of the saint. Could she,
dare she read by it ?
The moon disappeared entirely behind the
chimney. St. Roch's candle or not? She took
her slippers in her hand, passed into the room,
and stood before the improvised altar cogitating.
Who would ever know of it but the saint and
" St. Roch, priez pour moi !
" St. Roch, ayez pitie de moi !
" St. Roch, daignez me secourir !
" Enfin, he is a man, he will understand !"
There was not the same difference between
him and other men as between the Sisters and
herself. The transparent, waxen Sisters, they
embarrassed her with their pure eyes and lips,
their unsoilable hands, their immaculate bodies.
Spouses of the Holy Ghost, any one could see
that ! not of craving, ailing humanity.
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1S70. 285
She knelt at the chair and repeated her prayers
interrogatively, looking timidly to the armed
knight for some sign or token of disapproval.
Then, an apprehensive glance for other lurking
presences all around the chamber, then — a pause
to listen to the sleeping respiration of her hus-
band, then — slowly and stealthily she put her
hand behind her, drew a book from the floor,
and opened the pages of Les filles de Lucifer.
The wick neither flickered nor winced, but
shared its rays fairly and indiscriminately be-
tween the gaudy beatitudes of the saint and the
chastely printed type of Monsieur Villeminot's
" Les filles de Lucifer ! But who are the daugh-
ters of Lucifer ?" She tried to remember if her
knowledge of womankind had ever contained
them. Alas ! her schooling had been of the
shortest, surrounding only the year of her first
communion, distant now and dim.
"Lucifer? his daughters? Mon Dieu ! I did
not even know he had any.''
It was hard to read words she was unfamiliar
with ; still harder to recognize her own every-day
intimate expressions in such service as was need-
ed to portray the charms and characteristics of
the ladies in question. Whole pages vanished
before her into the unintelligible, descriptions re-
mained sealed to her limited understanding. The
open spaces and short sentences of dialogue, how-
286 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER, 1870,
ever, were loop-holes into the fiction which, in her
simplicity, she mistook for reality, and at last she
" Mon Dieu ! mon Dieu !" she murmured, from
time to time, under her breath. She bent her
perplexed brows nearer to the book, as if her
heavy eyes were attempting to deceive her. At
intervals she raised her head, clasped her hands,
and looked in dispassionate appeal to the minia-
ture saint. Once a blush mounted under her
thick, sallow skin, and her heavy fist fell on the
passage, burying it from his sight and from hers.
"And you," apostrophizing St. Roch, "you all
up there, you know all this, you see all this, and
do nothing ! great God !"
The cocks in the neighboring bird-store began
to make stifled guesses at dawn from their im-
prisoned cages, the candle was nearing the sock-
et, when the last pages were reached and the
book fell to the floor. She stood up and held
her forehead tightly. Her plain, work-a-day eyes
burned from the pandemonium of light dancing
before them. Perfumes and flowers, music and
wine, and the intoxicating glamour of idealized
passion confused and staggered her. She groped
her way to the bed, ' les fiUes de Lucifer,' houris,
sultanas, sirens, joyous nights, nocturnal days, or-
gies, fetes, nudities, rhapsodies — the whole satur-
nalia of life, with grotesque lasciviousness pass-
ing and repassing in her brain.
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER, 1870. 287
As she Stood grasping the post the blackness
faded into gray, the gray Hfted like a mist, and
the bed slowly emerged from obscurity — the
tossed-up draperies, the indented pillow bearing
the white-haired head, with the long beard hid-
ing the sunken cavity of the toothless mouth, the
thin hands, and the body. The body that had
disported youthful passions and graces for the
daughters of Lucifer — what had become of it un-
der the sheets ? A bare outline !
He lay, the unconscious author, in the heavy
torpid sleep of the aged, moving his hands un-
easily, as daylight approached, muttering, mut-
tering incessantly in his own private, aristocratic
" A gentleman, an aristocrat, and an ' homme
de lettres !' the biographer and companion of ' les
filles de Lucifer !' If it were not so, why should
he write it ? — why write such lies ? If it were so,
God and St. Roch help him !" The past of St.
Roch himself had not been more above suspicion.
She bent over him as she had bent over his
book — doubting, questioning, confused. Only her
same old Monsieur Villeminot — her same old,
blind patron. Not an infirmity, not a distortion,
not a wrinkle missing, thank God !
" Madame, never a cross word, never an un-
gentle tone, never a complaint."
Her own words recurred again, enveloped in
the same mist of tears that had blurred the
288 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER, 1870.
Mother Superior from her eyes. "And blind,
hopelessly blind." How clear and well scrubbed
her own humble, uneducated past had been !
" O God ! why didst Thou make men so ? or
why didst Thou not protect Monsieur Villeminot ?"
And again the unforgetable in her life came to
her and held her, while the gray light of dawn
broadened its streaks in the crack of the door
and crept down the window, shutter by shutter.
"Enfin, God knows best. She is the Mother
Superior of the convent, I only Margot ! Hus-
band for husband. He has given her the Church ;
but to me He has given Monsieur Villeminot." . . .
Absent-mindedly, she made and carried the
habitual cup of morning coffee to Monsieur Vil-
lem's room. It was not until after repeated
knocks on the door that she realized his de-
parture of the night before. The little flower-
maker was just going out to her work, " tiree
a quatre epingles," as usual. A suspicious char-
acter she was, in her tight-fitting, flounced dress-
es, kid gloves, and diminutive capote, tied co-
quettishly under her chin with bright ribbon.
" Ha, the lazy one ! Still asleep !"
" Mon Dieu !" answered Margot, with a sigh ;
"he is not there at all."
The flower -maker's malicious eyes tvt^inkled
knowingly as she minced out :
" Ah, le brigand ! but that is the way with
young men !"
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER, 1S70. 289
" He has gone away, mademoiselle, forever."
"Gone away forever! But where? but why?"
Margot's shrug of the shoulder left the answer
to the inventive powers of the other one.
"Tant mieux !" shrugging her shoulders also;
" one enemy less here ; one more to kill over
There was a general excitement in the yard
among the lodgers over the news ; and the sat-
isfactory feeling of elation that France had been
so promptly vindicated by them continued until
old Grouille made his appearance with his greasy
bunch of pass-keys, and marched lugubriously
up-stairs, followed by a porter.
" Now, if the steps would crack under him —
hein !" the women whispered ; " that would be
a judgment !"
Prussia and the little black trunk were incon-
tinently carried ignominiously out of the corri-
dor, pursued by witticisms and patriotic jests,
which culminated in boisterous hilarity as the ban-
dy-legged, staggering porter finally disappeared,
Anais, returning from early mass, knocked against
him as he stepped onto the banquette. It was
only Wilhelm Mtiller, painted in white letters on
the trunk, that she saw, not Prussia ; and the
tender sentiments of repentance which were now
making her heart eloquent with contrition took
one bound into remorse — dumb, agonized re-
morse. Margot waylaid the man at the corner,
ago IN THE FRENCH QUARTER, 1870.
and detained him until a message translated into
his native Creole had been reiterated into intelli-
gible conveyance on his part.
The war travelled all the way down the street
from Canal to Esplanade ; zigzagging like a
streak of lightning from banquette to banquette,
to separate friends from foes in all the little
shops and industries, neighbors for decades ;
playing havoc with trade, blockading sociability,
and laying waste whole quarters of human affecT
tions. From every German signboard victorious
Prussian armies seemed contemptuously to issue
with cannon, flags, sabres, and insults, to besiege
an opposite or proximate French heart, which
was daily fighting, starving, freezing, despair-
ing, mutinying, with Paris enshrined in its very
In " La Rose de France " misfits accumulated
beyond the capacity of the show-window ; orders
diminished below comparison with any previous
era, and Anais, to her stepmother's vituperative
indignation, was discovering a vocation for the
cloister. The world had become manless for
her ; all her growing and blooming, dressing and
coquetting useless and distasteful; her dreams,
plans, and musings out of place and inappropri-
ate. She had to learn a different language from
the Uioonbeams and flowers. Her ears misinter-
preted the strains of music. Her heart bounded
and started on false rcents and trails. Her lamp
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1S70. 29I
burned long and bright behind the curtains. How
often the doors opened to illusory taps !
The news from France ? What were battles
and invasions ? She, she alone, could tell what
real misfortune, real pain, were. The phenom-
enon was that life could continue at all under
the circumstances ; that the sun could shine, and
the people pass in front of the shop day after day,
just the same. Yes, it was evidently God's will
to make a nun of her. . . . Was there, could there
be, a greater tragedy than hers in His world,
among His people .'
Either France or the shoe business had to suf-
fer, and Monsieur Renaudiere was too good a
patriot to hesitate in such an emergency between
his workroom and Jacquet's " Quincaillerie,"
where the war was being diligently supervised
and the Government vigorously reconstructed in
nightly seances of midnight duration.
As Napoleon waned, Jacquet waxed, and his
cottage rose in direct importance with the ad-
versities of France. Trade was never brisker.
The high-pointed tile roof over his shop seemed
hardly able to hold down the plethora of wares
underneath. The front room was in a constant
state of overflow into the back room, which in
turn disburdened itself onto the unpaved yard
in the rear, where were huddled together old cart-
wheels, pi-imitive sugar boilers, millstones, yellow
water jars (retired into desuetude by increasing
292 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 187O.
use of cisterns), chains, cannon-balls, and rusty
heaps of mingled odds and ends, leaving barely
space enough in the centre for a half-dozen
chairs to mortise themselves comfortably in the
soft earth, under the reverberative periods of
Jacquet's hyperbolical eloquence. Here, evening
after evening, under sunsets, twilights, moons and
star risings, royalty had been guillotined, relig-
ion suppressed, priests extirpated, palaces and
churches fired, dejected imperialists coerced into
red-republican acquiescence by the fiery iron-mon-
ger, and "la patrie Madonne," coifed and cos-
tumed for the third representation of that drama,
whose fifth act this time, according to the author,
was to be a permanent denouement of victory
and peace. But constant defeat and the pro-
tracted siege had driven the little coterie into de-
spair and into the house, as winter succeeded to
autumn, and it was finally in the dimly-lighted
back room, surrounded by the shadowy forms of
Jacquet's favorite metal, a prey to sinister noises
and fancies, listeners to the stolid rejoicings of
foes outside and the indifferent gayety of neutrals,
that the compatriots suffered the full bitterness
of their expatriation and humiliation. At the end
of hope and patience, on the point of reacting
vindictively into royalism, they sat one night,
alas ! and waited for the last news from Paris
the terms of surrender.
" It is with a sword in the hand of a republic."
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1S70. 293
The word was, as usual with Jacquet, misfortune ;
instead of silencing his tongue, appearing to li-
" Boutique !" (Shop !)
An old carafe to be sold, or a broken cup to be
matched, or five cents of nails to be bought on time,
or the shiftless Carlins redeeming or pawning nec-
essary or useless flat-irons ; and the Government
had to be suspended, and the priests allowed a
breathing-spell until, not satisfaction (for that, even
in a second-hand condition, was not to be found
in Jacquet's shop), but agreement was arrived at.
" It is iron, * le fer, le fer, le fer,' " beating down
as he spoke on a newly-polished stove.
" Shop !"
" Au diable la pratique !"
And they all listened listlessly to a tedious rig-
marole of chaffering over a coffee-pot.
" And that is the last price. Monsieur Jacquet ?"
"All that can be called 'last price.' "
" Mon Dieu ! how dear these things are !"
" Cro nom ! if I gave it to you for nothing you
would still call it dear, you women !" and he com-
menced closing and bolting his shutters, for it
was ringing nine o'clock.
" It is not that it is dear, Monsieur Jacquet,
but money is so scarce." The voice sounded of
an empty purse.
" There is no law to compel you to buy a cof-
fee-pot, saperlotte !"
294 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1S70.
" And times are hard, mon Dieu, harder than
in our war !"
" Si ! the times are hard, but no harder for you
than for me, par example !"
"Well, it's no use; I had better have the old
one mended. Good-night, Monsieur Jacquet."
" Good-night, Madame Margot,"
His voice was acrimonious and disgusted
enough ; he bolted the door noisily against the
intrusion of any more customers.
" Va-t-en, imbecile ! idiote de femme ! dear,
dear, dear !" whining in imitation of her tones.
" She could not tell the truth and say she had
no money ; the truth from women ; ha, bonjour !
I guarantee she had not a picayune in her pock-
et. Ah, good God ! what fools women are ! He
knew what He was about when He made them
so. But it is not the men Vv'ho should complain
of it, nor her old patron — Hein, Madame Mar-
got ! Madame Margot!"
She was nearly through the corridor, but his
voice arrested her in time and brought her back.
" But come in. Don't be a fool. What are
you afraid of ? Here, for God's sake, take it for
a picayune, on time, anything, only don't talk any
more about it. Here, go make the ' patron ' his
coffee ; bon soir ! En — fin," as he sharply shut
the door behind her. " 1-oor wretch, if he has the
coffee to make. He is a Frenchman also, her
'patron.' He will not want for misery and dis-
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1S70. 295
grace to-morrow morning ! Blind and infirm — it
is very little, after all, a coffee-pot ! A gentleman,
an aristocrat, and a man of letters, too, according
to that great cow of a Widow Carlin and her two
heifer daughters. Pests of the earth, with their
flat-irons! Oui, messieurs," returning to the
back door, "it will come hard upon him; he
dates from the time of the great Napoleon when
there was a Franca to gurround (g-r-r-r-ound)
the Prussians under her heel. Ha ! The time
will come again ! We must begin again as they
did. ... As I was saying, the republic. . . . But
what is the matter ? You are all going ?"
He had been too busy with his own soliloquy
to hear the conference of the others. Old Frejus
had been, the orator this time; he who had sat
obstinately silent during the autumn and winter
debates of his compatriots, from whom neither
guillotines nor petroleum could evoke more than
increasingly melancholy shakes of the head and
increasingly dejected arrangements of feature,
whose tongue had refused to participate even in
the allowably desperate prophecies and surmises
of the hour; he had found a text in the dialogue
between Margot and Jacquet for a sermon, and
the language — poor old silent Frejus ! — of a Do-
minican in Passion Week to deliver it in. Not
that his friends, being Frenchmen, needed more
than a suggestion to kindle their hearts into gen-
erosity and sympathy. He buttoned up his over-
296 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1S70.
coat and tied a bandanna over his head, still talk-
ing along in his tearful, complaining tone, as if
his tongue could not cease all at once the unac-
customed impetus and motion ; his words falling
through the red and yellow folds, being twisted
around mouth and neck.
" Humanity ! Christianity ! A good, pious
woman ! In poverty ! No friends ! Compan-
ions ! All Frenchmen alike ! Conquered by
Prussians ! Blind ; alone ; infirm ! \\^eather so
cold ! A gentleman ; an aristocrat ; a man of let-
ters ! Poor woman, no money, no coffee ! And we
sitting here spouting ! spouting ! spouting ! with
— he, my Saviour ! — full stomachs and warm bod-
ies — we let Frenchmen die of hunger and want !
The Prussians kill them. We are more brutal
It was a short speech, but the longest he had
ever made in his life ; and it was more effective
than any of Jacquet's or Renaudiere's, for it left
no minority. " En avant, mes amis !" command-
ed Jacquet. All the overcoats were buttoned up,
all the handkerchiefs knotted, and all stood out-
side the door and shivered unanimously, while
Jacquet hunted for the key-hole with his pass-
key in a darkness that seemed assembled C7i
masse to quell forever the impertinent efforts of
gas. They crossed the street, slipped against
and stumbled over each other in the corridor,
traversed the yard, and directed their steps to the
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1870. 297
stair-way, each one silently conning some Gal-
licism of respectful homage and love. Renau-
diere held back. Frejus absent-mindedly or un-
selfishly mounted the rotten stairs first, and was
miraculously followed in safety by all the rest.
The aroused Carlins peeped through their door
at the astounding deputation filing past, and all,
old and young, followed on tiptoe after ; but they
were not half-way up the stairs and darkness be-
fore they were overtaken and startled into sup-
pressed screams and ejaculations by the light-
shod Anais, who, also peeping, was also driven by
curiosity into following the procession.
Fre'jus discreetly tapped, then waited a while,
then softly opened the battened doors, and all the
heads came together to look through the glass
casement inside. Oh, the battle of Sedan had
been followed by defeat, bloodshed, and humilia-
tion enough to have cracked the panes as the
concentrated hatred of their gaze fell on what
they had accustomed themselves to regard as
the physiognomical expression of Prussian ava-
rice, cruelty, and oppression — the mild face of
INIonsieur Wilhelm Miiller. Rage at the sight of
him swept like a blast all the soft impulses away
from their hearts and the pretty speeches a-mak-
ing in their brain.
" He had not gone away, then, the liar ! He was
not fighting with his countrymen, the coward !
He had remained rather, vilely to creep and spy
29S IN THE FRENCH QUARTER, 1870.
among the unfortunate French under the cover
of darkness ! Bribing and corrupting poverty-
pinched French patriots into disgraceful social
intercourse ! That was like a Prussian. Sitting,
laughing in his sleeve at them ! After they had
put him out ; cast him and his trunk into the
street, he was mocking them ! Despising them !
Ah, they would show him ! They might be beat-
en in France ; but here in America, in New Or-
leans, there was still something to be said, to be
done. Did he take them for children ? For ba-
Serenely unaware of the muffled heads, red
noses, and vindictive whispers of his mortal en-
emies outside, the young German seemed in the
dim room to be pursuing an amusing, if hesitat-
ing, narrative ; reading from time to time from
the telegraphic columns of a newspaper he held
in his hand. Renaudiere alone could catch the
drift of it, for he, sacrificing vision to hearing, was
bent over, holding an uncovered ear against the
" But what is it ? What is it .'"' demanded Jac-
quet. " What lies ? What infamies ?"
" Sacre !" A laugh, actually a laugh through
the orifice, to be reported by Renaudiere. A
pleased, easy, complacent laugh by the old man
in the chair to stick and quiver in their hearts.
A laugh by a Frenchman, at this fatal hour, and
before a Prussian !
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1S70. 299
" He reads telegrams," continued Renaudiere,
and then opened his lips for no more items ; for,
though he glued his ear to the key-hole, he knew
that the words which he heard could only have
emanated from his own diseased brain. " French
triumphs — Prussian defeats — despair of besiegers
— courage and fortitude of besieged. In all prob-
ability peace with glory and success to France !
Paris . . ."
Was he (Renaudiere) crazy, or they ?
" Ha, ha, ha, Prussians repulsed again ! Still
holding their own ? Ah, my brave Frenchmen,
my brave Parisians. My polished lions ! Star-
vation, shells, snow, prrut !" A cracked sound of
his youthful expression of contempt. " They are
fighting now for Paris, men ami, for no govern-
ment, no man, but for Paris ! Ah, you don't
know v*hat that means! I do, I do ! it will make
them indestructible. Paris surrender?" He strove,
but could not hide the tremulous vacillation from
confidence to appi^ehension. The others merely
stared from the outside, waiting for some event
to enlighten them or prompt future action.
Margot, alas, for the easy descent of it! was
kneeling on the floor before the picture of St. Roch,
but only to hold the new coffee-pot over the flame
of the votive candle. Her face v/as turned away
from her task towards Monsieur Wilhelm, whom
she was prompting by nods and signs and smiles
of encouragement. The flames played over the
300 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1S70.
sides of the unsteady tin, blackening and smoking
it, and sending little waves of shadow over the
whitewashed walls. The men outside nudged
each other as the red and gilt backs of the books
lightened and darkened on the mantel,
" Look ! his books ! it's true, a famous author ;
a man of letters."
" Paris surrender ! Paris surrender !" Tlie
shrill voice came through the key-hole to Re-
naudiere. " Never ! Why, her paving-stones are
the very bone, her sewers the veins, of the French
people. Surrender to Prussians ! Before the last
soldier, the last man, the last woman, the last
gamins from the streets had perished in her de-
fence ? Before the generale had been beaten
throughout the whole world and the last French
heart securely sleeping under foreign flags roused.-'
Never ! never ! To arms ! To arms ! Her cry
would go from city to hamlet, from hamlet to
family, from the family to the distant wandering
sons in mountains, swamps, and prairies. Country
in danger, my children ! To arms ! To arms !
Who — who of us would hold back ? On ! On !"
He was hidden by the cushions. They on the
outside could hear nothing, but they could see
his fingers creep along his chair. His white
head came into view bent forward in blind in-
tensity of expression, his thin, long beard agitated
by the excited utterances.
" Paris in danger ! To the rescue ! All ! all ! —
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1S70. 301
Ranks, Politics, Religions, Oriflammcs, Fleurs-
de-lis, Tricolor ! My country ! We come ! We
The gaunt form sprang electrified from the
chair, and made a step forward, an extended
hand grasping an imaginary banner, the faded
dressing-gown falling (as if to free him of in-
firmity and disease) from the bent shoulders.
" We come ! Yes ! All ! all !"
He swayed, tottered, and fell like a clod back
into his cushions.
They threw open the doors and rushed in,
trampling over the prostrate form of Renaudiere.
The coffee-pot fell from Margot's hands, upset-
ting the candle and splashing the coffee over the
floor, Margot, INIonsieur Wilhelm, but, most vo-
ciferously, Renaudiere, interposed, and before a
word could be uttered by the uninitiated, excited
ones, they all stood committed to the suppositi-
tious triumphs of France, the supposititious suc-
cessful defence of Paris, and were made by signs
the confidants of Monsieur Wilhelm's nightly
stolen visits, his generosity, his " bonte divine,"
his un-Prussian good-will. Jacquet lighted the
candle and placed it with a bow of national po-
liteness under the saint again, and then Margot
shoved them all out into the darkness and cold
of the gallery, entangled with Carlins, incoherent
of speech, and distorted from prolonged shrugs of
302 IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1870.
" Mais, que diable ! that woman, eh, she is
never going to allow Paris to be taken," grum-
Renaudiere, after several mistakes in the ob-
scurity, finally seized the right man, Monsieur
Wilhelm, by both hands.
" Mon ami, you are great, you are noble ; don't
say a word, I understand, I appreciate. As a
Frenchman, you see, I must detest you ; as a
man," suiting the action to the word, " I embrace
Old Fre'jus had not been missed until he re-
appeared with arms filled : crucifixes, beads, pict-
ures, and candles, a complete installation from
his show-case for the proper, fitting service of the
knightly, handsome St. Roch.
And she, who waiting in despair for one more
chance, one more tap on her window, thought
herself drifting towards the convent ? There
was no m.oon to gild the heavens above her, and
the water dripped into icicles from the cistern be-
hind her, but her vigil was neither long nor cold,
although the cathedral clock was striking mid-
night before she caught him slipping past into
the corridor — his nightly martyrdom, slipping
past love and happiness, into a cold, deserted,
She caught and held him — " Wilhelm !" And
it was as if there had never been war or discord
in the world ; as if, indeed, there had never been
IN THE FRENCH QUARTER. 1S70. 303
a world but for them, for that moment. Only a
moment, but it was sufficient — only a moment,
because old Grouille was promptitude itself in
bolting and barring the gate of the lodging-house
W. D. IIOWELLS.
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By AMELIE rives.
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One is permitted to discover qualities of niiud and ii proficiency and
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of genius may be anticipated in American literature. — Boston Olobe.
Miss Rives has imagination, breadth, and a daring and courage
oftenest spoken of as masculine. Moreover, she is exquisitely poet-
ical, and her ideals, with all the mishaps of her delineations, are of an
exalted order X Y. Star.
It was little more than two years ago that Miss Kives made her first
literary conquest, a conquest so complete and astonisliing as at once
to give her fame. How well she has sustained and added to the repu-
tation she so suddenly won, we all know, and the permanency of that
reputation demonstrates conclusively that her success did not depend
upon the lucky striking of a popular fancy, but that it rests upon en-
during qualities that are developing more and more richly year by
year.— Hichmoiid State.
It is evident that the author has imagination in an unusual degree,
much strength of expression, and skill iu delineating character.— i)08-
There are few young writers who begin a promising career with so
much spontaneity and charm of expression as is displayed by Miss
Rives. — Literary World, boston.
The trait which the author seems to take the most pleasure in de-
picting is the passionate loyalty of a girl to her lover or of a young
wife to her husband, and her portrayal of this trait has feeling, and is
set off by an unconventional style and brisk movement.— 3Vie Book
Buyer, N. Y.
There is such a wealth of imagination, such an exuberance of strik-
ing language iu the productions of this author, as to attract and hold
the reader. — Toledo Blade.
Miss Rives is essentially a teller of love stories, and relates them
with such simple, straightforward grace that she at once captures the
sympathy and interest of the reader. . . . There is a freshness of feeling
and a mingling of pathos and humor which are simply delicious.— iN'cio
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In tliis book are a little history, a little property, a few fascinating
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A LITTLE JOURNEY IN THE WORLD. A Novel. Post
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The vigor and vividness of the tale and its sustained interest are not
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A powerful picture of that phase of modern life in which unscrupu-
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Perhaps the most accurate and graphic account of these portions of
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THEIR PILGRIMAGE. Richly Illustrated by C. S. Reiniiart.
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Mr. Warner's pen-pictures of the characters typical of each resort,
of the manner of life followed at each, of the humor and absurdities
peculiar to Saratoga, or Newport, or Bar Harbor, as the case may be,
are as good-natured as they are clever. The satire, when there is any,
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the brightest side of the cheerful, pleasure-seeking world with which
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By CONSTANCE F. WOOLSOK
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There is a certain bright cheerfulness in Miss Woolson's writing
which invests all her characters with lovable qualities.— Jciojs/t Advo-
cate, N. Y.
Miss Woolsou is among our few successful writers of interesting
magazine stories, and her skill and power are perceptible in the de-
lineation of her heroines no less than in the suggestive pictures of
local \Uc.— Jewish Mcsse7igcr, N. Y.
Constance Fcnimore Woolson may easily become the novelist lau-
reate. — Boston Globe.
Miss Woolson has a graceful fancy, a ready wit, a polished style, and
conspicuous dramatic power ; while her skill in the development of a
story is very remarkable. — London Life.
Miss Woolson never once follows the beaten track of the orthodox
novelist, but strikes a new and richly-loaded vein, which so far is all
her own ; and thus we feel, on reading one of her works, a fresh sen-
sation, and we put down the book with a sigh to think our pleasant
task of reading it is finished. The author's lines must have fallen to
her in very pleasant places ; or she has, perhaps, within herself the
wealth of womanly love and tenderness she pours so freely into all
she writes. Such books as hers do much to elevate the moral tone of
the day— a quality sadly wanting in novels of the lime.— WhitdtaU
Published by HARPER & BROTHERS, New Yokk.
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A Collection of Seven Stories. By Annie Trumbull
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A charming collection of character sketches and stories
— humorous, pathetic, and romantic— of New England
country life. The volume includes "How Faith Came
and Went," "Botany Bay," "Aunt Randj^" "Fishin'
Jimmy," " Butterneggs," "Deacon Pheby's Selfish Nat-
ur'," and " A Speakin' Ghost."
They are of the best sort of " dialect " stories, full of humor
and quaint conceits. Gathered in a volume, with a frontispiece
which is a wonderful character sketch, they make one of the
best contributions to the light literature of this season. — Ob-
server, N. Y.
Stories told with much skill, tenderness, and kindliness, so
much so that the leader is drawn powerfully towards the poor
subjects of them, and soon learns to join the author in looking
behind their peculiarities and recognizing special spiritual gifts
in them. — N. Y. Tribune.
These stories arc of such originality, abounding in deep pa-
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with the writer as he reads of the hallucinations of these he-
roes. — Watcliman, Boston.
Dreamers of a singular kind, they affect us like the inhabit-
ants of allegories — a walk of literary art in which we have had
no master since the pen dropped from the faint and feeble fin-
gers of Hawthorne, and which seems native to Mrs. Slosson. —
N. Y. Mail and Express.
The sweetness, the spiciness, the aromatic taste of the forest
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A KING OF TYEE.
A Tale of the Times of Ezra and Nehemiab.
By James M. Ludlow, D. D. 1 6rao, Cloth,
Ornamental, $1 00.
Tlie picture of the life and manners of that far-away period
is carefully and artistically drawn, the plot is full of interest,
and the whole treatment of the subject is strikingly original,
and there is a dramatic intensity in the story which will at once
remind the reader of " Ben-Hur." — Boston Traveller.
It is altogether a fresh and enjoyable tale, strong in its sit-
uations and stirring in its actions. — Cincinnati Commercial-
Another distinct success in the field of historical fiction. . . .
Must be unhesitatingly set down as a highly satisfactory per-
formance. — Boston Beacon.
In "A King of Tyre " we live and move amid old ideas, old
superstitions, and an extinct civilization. But this vanished order
of things the author has pierced to the core, and laid bare the
human heart tiiat animates it all. When we say that his tale
is interesting, that it is satisfying, that it is dramatically con-
clusive, we give it high praise, yet we give it deliberately, and
are convinced that the opinion of all intelligent readers will
confirm the verdict. — Churchman, N. Y.
Vivid with the richness of Oriental habits and customs, and
the weird accompaniments of pagan worship, this tale of the
times after the return of the Ilebrews to their own land, will
hold the attention of the reader with unflagging interest. Its
development shows marked ability and skill. There is an his-
torical basis to the story which gives it additional attraction. —
Living Church, Chicago.
Will enhance the reputation of the author, and can be wel-
comed as not only a novel of absoi-bing interest, but a faithful
study ami portraiture of an eventful historical period. — Chris-
tian Litelliijcnccr, N. Y.
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A Tale of the Christ. Bj^ Lew. Wallace. 16mo,
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quarter Crushed Levaut, $4 00. — Gari'Ield Edition. .
2 volumes. Illustrated with tweuty full-page iihoto-
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and Gold, Uncut Edges and Gilt To^is, $7 00. (In a
Anything so startling, new, and distinctive as the leading feature of
this romance does not often appear in works of fiction. . . . Some of
Mr. Wallace's writing is remarkable for its pathetic eloquence. The
scenes described in the New Testament are rewritten with the power
and skill of an accomplished master of style. — iV". Y. Times.
Its real basis is a description of the life of the Jews and Romans at
the beginning of the Christian era, and this is both forcible and brill-
iant. . . .We are carried through a surprising variety of scenes; we
witness a sea-fight, a chariot-race, the internal economy of a Roman
galley, domestic interiors at Antioch, at Jerusalem, and among the
tribes of the desert; palaces, prisons, the haunts of dissipated Roman
youth, the houses of pious families of Israel. There is plenty of ex-
citing incident; everything is animated, vivid, and glowing. — N. Y.
It is full of poetic beauty, as though born of an Eastern sage, and
there is sufficient of Oriental customs, geography, nomenclature, etc.,
to greatly strengthen the semblance. — Boston Commomccallh.
"Ben-IIur" is interesting, and its characterization is fine and strong.
Meanwhile it evinces careful study of the period in which the scene is
laid, and will help those who read it with reasonable attention to real-
ize the nature and conditions of Hebrew life in Jerusalem and Ro-
man life at Antioch at the time of our Saviour's advent — Examiner,
The book is one of unqnestionable power, and will be read with un-
wonted interest by many readers wlio are weary of the conventional
novel and romnnco.— Boston Journal.
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